University law student attracts heat over 3-D gun design

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UT alumnus Cody Wilson developed software that would offer a design to make firearms through 3D printers.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

UT law student Cody Wilson is making headlines as he continues to develop software that would allow anyone with the funding to easily build a gun from the comfort of their own home.

Wilson has been working with several other researchers and financial backers to create a design for a gun that could be shared through the internet and printed using a 3D printer, a piece of machinery used for manufacturing solid objects from digital designs. Although the printers cost between $10,000 and $30,000 on average, there is no permit required to purchase or lease one. As a result, some are raising concerns that current gun laws have not kept up with changing technology.

Wilson said the software is near completion, and he is facing increasing opposition to it. The company he leased a 3D printer from, Stratasys, took back procession of it earlier this week, citing legal concerns about what Wilson could do with it.

In a press release issued Wednesday, the company wrote, “We believe Mr. Wilson intended to use Stratasys property to produce a weapon that is illegal according to the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (a.k.a. “the plastic guns” law) which prohibits the manufacturing or possession of a gun undetectable by airport metal detectors.”

Wilson said he has no intentions to break any laws with his project, and he has been carefully examining the legalities of the software throughout its development.

He said he is upset with Stratasys for making accusations about his intent.

“They make it seem like we were about to go break the law or something, which I think hurts us, and Stratasys just doesn’t care,” Wilson said. “They want to keep their name clean, so they are happy to just throw us under the bus.”

Wilson said he recently got the project’s fund up to $20,000, and hopes recent opposition to the project won’t affect its support base, which has also been growing.

There are legal licenses required to build a gun in some circumstances, and Wilson said he will be obtaining the proper licenses to ensure his efforts are legal before he creates any weapons.

Wilson said he sees potential hazards with his new technology, as it could allow anyone with the funds to more easily build a gun, but he doesn’t think it would be possible to control the sharing of these files under constitutional freedoms.

“How do you stop that, and should you?” he said. “I think the answer is ‘no.’”

Michael Reyes, the resident agent in charge at the Austin branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said he spoke with Wilson about the project earlier this week and he has no concerns that Wilson is attempting to do anything illegal.

“[Wilson’s] done his research into the firearm regulations,” he said.

Reyes said Wilson even went into his office to inquire about the legalities of the project.

“[Wilson’s] obviously got his ideas, and he just wants to be careful of what he is doing,” Reyes said.

Wilson said after obtaining any gun licenses that he feels may be applicable to his project, he plans to obtain another printer and continue with his efforts.

“This thing is really growing,” he said.