from the it-could-be-used-to-make,-well,-anything! dept.
FedEx is refusing to ship Texas nonprofit Defense Distributed's computer controlled mill, the Ghost Gunner. The $1,500 tool can carve aluminum objects from digital designs, including AR-15 lower receivers from scratch or more quickly from legally obtainable "80 percent lowers".
When the machine was revealed last October, Defense Distributed's pre-orders sold out in 36 hours. But now FedEx tells WIRED it's too wary of the legal issues around homemade gunsmithing to ship the machine to customers. "This device is capable of manufacturing firearms, and potentially by private individuals," FedEx spokesperson Scott Fiedler wrote in a statement. "We are uncertain at this time whether this device is a regulated commodity by local, state or federal governments. As such, to ensure we comply with the applicable law and regulations, FedEx declined to ship this device until we know more about how it will be regulated."
But buying, selling, or using the Ghost Gunner isn't illegal, nor is owning an AR-15 without a serial number, says Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA and the author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. "This is not that problematic," he says. "Federal law does not prohibit individuals from making their own firearms at home, and that includes AR-15s."
Defense Distributed's founder Cody Wilson argues that rather than a legal ambiguity, FedEx is instead facing up to the political gray area of enabling the sale of new, easily accessible tools that can make anything-including deadly weapons. "They're acting like this is legal when in fact it's the expression of a political preference," says Wilson. "The artifact that they're shipping is a CNC mill. There's nothing about it that is specifically related to firearms except the hocus pocus of the marketing." Wilson, whose radically libertarian group has pursued projects ranging from 3-D printed guns to untraceable cryptocurrency, says he chose to ship his Ghost Gunner machines with FedEx specifically because the company has a special NRA firearm industry membership. But when he told a local FedEx representative what he'd be shipping, he says the sales rep responded that he'd need to check with a superior. "This is no big deal, right? It's just a mill," Wilson says he told his FedEx contact. "You guys ship guns. You've shipped 3-D printers and mills, right? You'll ship a drill press, right? Same difference."
For the past five years, Cody Wilson has applied every possible advance in digital manufacturing technology to the mission of undermining government attempts at gun control. First he created the world's first 3-D printed gun, a deadly plastic weapon anyone could print at home with a download and a few clicks. Then he started selling a computer-controlled milling machine designed to let anyone automatically carve out the body of an untraceable AR-15 from a semifinished chunk of aluminum, upgrading his provocations from plastic to metal. Now his latest advance in home firearm fabrication allows anyone to make an object designed to defy the most basic essence of gun control: A concealable, untraceable, and entirely unregulated metal handgun.
On Sunday, Wilson's gun rights advocacy group, Defense Distributed, announced a new release of software for his computer-controlled milling machine known as the Ghost Gunner. The new code allows the 1-foot-cubed tabletop machine—which uses a spinning bit to carve three-dimensional shapes with minute precision—to not only produce untraceable bodies of AR-15s but to carve out the aluminum frame of an M1911 handgun, the popular class of semiautomatic pistols that includes the Colt 45 and similar weapons. Wilson says he plans to follow up soon with software for producing regulation-free Glocks and other handgun models to follow.
Wilson's goal now, he says, is to do for small arms what Defense Distributed did for AR-15s when it first released the $1,500 Ghost Gunner milling machine exactly three years ago to the day: Give people the ability to make a lethal weapon at home with no regulation whatsoever.
Also at Ars Technica:
"It's a certain type of person who builds and enjoys an AR-15—that's a lot of gun, and most people don't feel the need to have a big ol' battle rifle," Wilson says. "But we believe lots of people are interested in the conversation about an untraceable, concealable handgun. It's been on the roadmap the whole time for this project. It's just always been a question of how we get there, and it ended up being very, very difficult—kinda like the brass ring of the project, if you will."
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he is "looking into" the availability of plans for the 3D printing of guns, writing on Twitter that he had already been in touch with the NRA on the issue.
"I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn't seem to make much sense!" the president wrote on Twitter Tuesday morning.
After a years-long legal battle, Defense Distributed, a Texas-based group, has announced plans to release instructions on Wednesday for guns that can be created by a 3-D printer, including a handgun and parts for a semi-automatic assault rifle. Although plans were not supposed to be available until Wednesday, instructions have already begun to appear online for download, CNN reported Tuesday.
US District Judge Robert Lasnik found in his Monday ruling that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed based on their argument that the Department of State, in allowing for a modification of federal export law, had unwittingly run afoul of a different law, the Administrative Procedure Act. In essence, the judge found that because the Department of State did not formally notify Congress when it modified the United States Munitions List, the previous legal settlement that Defense Distributed struck with the Department of State—which allowed publication of the files—is invalid.
As Ars has reported, Defense Distributed is the Texas-based company involved in a years-long lawsuit with the Department of State over publication of those files and making them available to foreigners. The company runs DEFCAD, perhaps the best-known online repository of gun files.
[...] Judge Lasnik's ruling today only briefly addressed the fact that the files are already available on numerous sites, including Github, The Pirate Bay, and more. These files have circulated online since their original publication back in 2013. (Recently, new mirrors of the files have begun to pop up.) "It is not clear how available the nine files are: the possibility that a cybernaut with a BitTorrent protocol will be able to find a file in the dark or remote recesses of the Internet does not make the posting to Defense Distributed's site harmless," he wrote.
Will legalnauts with gavels smack down this injunction?
For those in the US with a combined interest in 3D-Printers, intersections of the 1st and 2nd Amendments, and legal precedents; Cody Wilson has been fighting the US Government for half a decade.
Short version: after Wilson uploaded his 3D pistol plans to his site, over 100,000 people downloaded it - this drew the attention of the US authorities, who tried to use the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to force a take-down.
The authorities argued that by posting the 3D printer plans for a firearm, Mr. Wilson was effectively exporting firearms, and subject to federal regulation. Eventually the Department of Justice dropped the case, paving the way for DIY'ers to publish such things freely.
The article cites 'promises' made by DoJ to move the regulations to another department.
Wired's article: A Landmark Legal Shift Opens Pandora's Box for DIY Guns (archive)
Related: The $1,200 Machine That Lets Anyone Make a Metal Gun at Home
Japanese Gun Printer Goes to Jail
Suspected 3D-Printed Gun Parts and Plastic Knuckles Seized in Australia
FedEx Refuses to Ship Defense Distributed's Ghost Gunner CNC Mill
Man Who Used CNC Mill to Manufacture AR-15 "Lowers" Sentenced to 41 Months
Ghost Gunner Software Update Allows the Milling of an M1911 Handgun