Earlier this week, the Wiki Weapons Project--an initiative to create a 3-D printed handgun and distribute the digital design file for free online--ran into a stumbling block when 3-D printer provider Stratasys pulled the lease on a printer it had provided the group. Stratasys cited a clause in the lease agreement that allows the company to rescind a lease for printers believed to be used for unlawful purposes. That raises the obvious (and thorny) question: Is the Wiki Weapons Project doing anything illegal?
We at PopSci are experts on many things, but federal firearms regulations and intellectual property law are not among them. As we understand it, one is required to obtain a federal firearms manufacturing license to produce firearms in this country--if those firearms are for sale. The Wiki Weapons Project has demonstrated no intention to sell any potential firearm it creates, but rather to create a freely distributed digital file that would allow anyone with the right hardware and know-how to print their own firearm.