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3D-printable gun schematics downloaded 100,000 times

The schematics for a 3D-printable gun released to The Pirate Bay earlier this week has already hit 100,000 downloads — and counting.

Cody Wilson firing the 3D-printed Liberator.
(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

The schematics for a 3D-printable gun released to The Pirate Bay earlier this week has already hit 100,000 downloads — and counting.

Is a firearm really that desirable an item?

Texas-based Defense Distributed last year announced that it was bringing a 3D-printed gun to the market. It was a move that was not without problems.

First, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson was kicked off IndieGoGo with his fundraising for the weapon in August of last year. Then, when he succeeded in reaching full funding via his website, 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys repossessed the printer he leased on the grounds that Wilson was not a licensed firearm manufacturer.

After this, Wilson, a law student, took pains to acquire said license and last week announced he had succeeded in creating a working, 3D-printed firearm out of plastics, with a video showing the weapon being fired.

The schematic for the firearm — called the Liberator — had been released free on The Pirate Bay earlier this week. Anyone with access to a 3D printer can download the blueprint and recreate the gun — and so far, the Liberator has been downloaded over 100,000 times. Most of the downloads, Defense Distributed said, have come from the US, followed by Spain, Brazil, Germany and the UK.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers are trying to get the technology to create 3D printed guns banned, with California Senator Leland Yee announcing plans to propose new legislation — a move echoed by New York Senator Charles Schumer.

"While I am as impressed as anyone with 3-D printing technology, and I believe it has amazing possibilities, we must ensure that it is not used for the wrong purpose with potentially deadly consequences," Yee said in a statement. "I plan to introduce legislation that will ensure public safety, and stop the manufacturing of guns that are invisible to metal detectors and that can be easily made without a background check."

While Wilson did retrofit the Liberator with metal components, there is no guarantee that any of the 100,000-plus people who downloaded the gun's blueprints will do the same — and the US citizens who have done so, have almost certainly not applied for the background check required to own and operate firearms.

In Australia, anyone seeking possession of a firearm must first possess a firearms license, and then seek a Permit to Acquire, which carries a mandatory 28-day waiting period. Each firearm must have a reason for purchase, such as pest control or hunting. In fact, in Australia, it's illegal to even carry a replica firearm in public.

Although US lawmakers are citing the gun's undetectability as the most serious concern, it seems to us that it is far more dangerous to put the ability to create a firearm into the hands of anyone who wants it.

Edit 4.00 pm AEST: The US Department of Defense Trade Controls has removed public access to the Liberator's schematic and claimed control of the files under US governmental authority.