“It doesn’t matter what the origins of the Second Amendment were,” says Cody Wilson, creator of the first 3D-printed gun and author of the new book, Come and Take It: The Gun Printer’s Guide to Thinking Free. “With the internet, we can transform this thing into right to resistance on a global scale. If it’s just a fact that the government serves guns now, this is just a point of political life.”
Reason TV visited Wilson at an Austin, Texas-based manufacturing facility of his company Defense Distributed to discuss his new memoir about the creation of first 3D-printed firearm, which he dubbed “The Liberator.”
Wilson told Reason TV he plans to push his lawsuit against State Department, which has prohibited him from making the Liberator printing freely available for download on his website, as far as he possibly can. Defense Distributed lost in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in September after the court ruled that national security trumps free speech in this case:
Ordinarily, of course, the protection of constitutional rights would be the highest public interest at issue in a case. That is not necessarily true here, however, because the State Department has asserted a very strong public interest in national defense and national security.
“The government, in certain cases, especially gun cases, gets to just wave around the words ‘national security’ without making a specific claim,” says Wilson. He rejects the State Department’s argument that this technology empowers enemies of the nation such as ISIS, pointing out that domestic terrorists have a stock of more than 300 million U.S. guns to pull from and that overseas militants are much more likely to get their hands on arms supplied by the CIA and other government agencies than they are to print off weapons.
Wilson is also pushing ahead with a new project: the Ghost Gunner, a do-it-yourself milling machine that allows anyone to construct an unregistered AR-15 rifle in less than four hours. The machine mills holes in an 80 percent completed metal lower receiver, and then users can attach the other components—easily available for purchase online—using common tools, nuts, and bolts to create a fully functional, unregistered military-grade weapon. The price tag on the Ghost Gunner is $250, and Wilson says he’s already moved thousands of units.
“There’s a certain political realism here. If you have the implements, outside of federal observation, for military-grade hardware… you have certain political capabilities that, perhaps, your neighbor does not,” says Wilson. “I’m not even sure I’m an anarchist anymore. I feel like I’m almost just, like, the accidental node in something else… something deeper and not at all concerned with the affairs of men.”
This interview taped before the 2016 presidential election took place, but Wilson confessed that he’s in “complete awe” of Donald Trump, whom he describes as “a genius,” “almost completely childish in his complete innocence,” and propelled by a “huge, unconscious force.” Wilson sees parallels with Trump’s rise and the creation of the Liberator. In both cases, says Wilson, a fearful media helped push the phenomenon into existence.
“[The media] don’t wait for the actual terror of the event to happen,” says Wilson. “They jump into the situation and complete it themselves in this nervous anticipation… The media cannot help themselves. If I can get something 80 percent of the way, they will take it to its completion and then a bit further than that.”
Watch the full interview above.
Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Edited by Weissmueller. Camera by Alex Manning and Alexis Garcia. Music by Kai Engel.
INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT: This is a rush transcript. Check against video for accuracy.
reason: Cody Wilson grabbed the nation’s attention in 2013 when he posted a video of himself firing the Liberator, the first fully 3D printed firearm. He’s now embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit with the State Department over weather or not he can post the printing plans for the Liberator on his company website. He lost his case in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals after they ruled that national security trumps the 1st Amendment right to disseminate information in this case. But Wilson is pushing ahead on the legal front, and with a new project: the Ghost Gunner. A do-it-yourself milling machine that allows you to construct an unregistered AR15 in less than 3 hours without leaving the comfort of your own home. It’s available on his website for 250$ and Wilson says he’s already moved thousands of units. We met up with Wilson at Defense Distributed’s manufacturing headquarters in Austin Texas to talk about the Ghost Gunner, his ongoing lawsuit and his journey from disaffected liberal to crypto anarchist creator of the 3D gun as documented in his new memoir Come and Take It: The Gun Printer’s Guide to Thinking Free.
The book on it’s most superficial level is a recounting of how the Liberator came to be, but it’s also at times, a kind of beautifully written meditation on the nature of the modern nation-state and the position of the dissident thinker within that state. And it’s also, kind of, packaged as a kind of how-to guide, not how to make a 3D gun, how to be someone who would think of creating a 3D gun when it didn’t exist before. So what exactly were you aiming for with this book?
Cody Wilson: Thanks for those descriptions, you know, you couldn’t help- my publisher was saying from the very beginning ‘we manifest a manifesto.’ And I didn’t want to do that. I don’t, I wanted an excuse to tell the story about how the Liberator was made, of course. The narrative of the Liberator is the excuse to take you into these places of anti-state thought if you will. But even that, even that is to make it a little dry. It’s just a somewhat, like you said in the beginning, what is it to have to think ’3D printed gun’? What is it to have to think something contrary to what is deemed to be official knowledge or, you know, the official course of things? Where do you have to go? What is the moral trajectory required? What happens to you and what do you give up? That’s something I just wanted to communicate to people, because I was not the same person at the end of that then I was at the beginning.
reason: The beginning where this idea, kind of springs to life, is you’re in a hotel, seems like a hotel lobby with some friends, having a discussion about WikiLeaks and one of your friends comes up with the phrase Wiki-Weapon. Tell me about the concept of a Wiki-Weapon and how that kind of started your thought process.
Wilson: For months in the summer of 2012, our only thoughts were ‘well we could print a gun’ you know. And we were just vaguely, you know, familiar with and boosters of WikiLeaks. It seems obvious now to say, well, ‘WikiLeaks for guns.’ But we weren’t thinking of it in those terms for weeks and weeks and when that finally, kind of, crystallized for me I was like ‘my god’ you know? We didn’t have the language of Crypto-Anarchy yet or the Cipherpunks yet. We didn’t really know, we just, we were doing something that had a kind of vague political feeling but didn’t have a name and when, in those moments WikiLeaks for guns happened. We all just kind of understood like ‘oh this is the mission’ laid out, it was going to be the internet serving guns, oh my god what a vision. And it was just like an instant realization for us.
reason: And what is the power of WikiLeaks or just kind of the Wiki concept to you?
Wilson: I think internet natives, or guys our age and younger, you know, when we discovered Wikipedia for the first time, you know, what that was doing to knowledge and the collaborative democratic production of things from the bottom up, essentially. We just understand, even without, again, without being able to write a dissertation about it, we understand that the internet was doing and serving political tides that were wholly undesignated, unsupervised, that the internet would mean all these politically consequential things and that we would be a part of it. So, I mean you can’t, it was wholly accidental and I want to emphasize that a lot of this book is about capturing the accidental with the will of the political and just kind of letting the objective irony of the universe fill your sails.
reason: Keeping in that vein of this being an overtly political act, early on you say ‘I believe the printed pistol lays bare the Western ethical ideology…’ What is that ideology in your view and how does the pistol reveal that?
Wilson: So I’m specifically referencing, in the sense of Badiou, ethical ideology. That there’s an under-girding moral force in our politics that’s just kind of assigned and, or assumed without question. This is often the ethical ideology of progress, that technological progress is ‘good’, that it has a ‘good’ moral force and that we do good things when we contribute to the technology enabling the democratic. All of these assumptions are incorrect. When people say ‘oh you know we’ll be on the right side of history.’ They kind of expect or play along with this idea that technology has a progressive force with history and everything is leading towards some kind of cohesive whole, this integrationist idea that history is eventually moving toward, you know, ‘we’re all getting smarter, we’re all getting better, everything’s getting better, politics is getting not as, you know, not as conflicted.’ Politics now is about totally eradicating the forces of difference and antagonism and indeed I would argue the essence of politics itself. We are striving toward, in our moral progressivism, our ethical ideology, we are striving toward an age where politics is kind of after the fact. A post-political era where, look what we’re not, you know, Hillary Clinton’s arguing look ‘borders, whatever, culture, whatever, those are just points of conflict, we’re part of a global integrationist whole, we are stronger together.’ Alright? This is her Hegelian unionism. And I would argue that that has a certain bankrupt moral force. That is just assumed to be dominant but really can’t drive people, really isn’t interesting. So I stand against, I stand against these ideas.
reason: You’ve described yourself as a Crypto-Anarchist. I mean, what is the political point that you’re hoping decentralized distribution of weapons is going to push forward?
Wilson: There’s both a symbolic power to what we do, that we’ve always recognized and played with, but there’s also, i would argue, a deep political realism to what we do, you know? In this shop we make machines that produce AR15s, we sell them by the thousands, and ship them by the thousands. These go to people who then can then make literal AR15s to military specification. There’s a certain political realism here. If you have the implements, outside of federal observation, for military-grade hardware, I mean, if you have that hardware and can produce it, you have certain political capabilities that perhaps your neighbor does not. We believe in the reality of politics at the end of the day. Even though, like, especially in the book, in this Baudrillardian, you know, kind of sphere, where it’s all about ‘how do we sap the symbolic power of our enemies?’ We operate on both spheres and therefore it’s somewhat schizophrenic. I want to show something with the book, the fluidity of ideology but also, indeed like, the trans-formative necessity of- even like the transcendent necessity of politics. I begin as a liberal, I discover the Cipherpunks and Crypto-Anarchy and then by the end I’m not even sure I’m an Anarchist any more, I feel like I’m almost just like the accidental node in something else, in my book, something deeper and not at all concerned with the affairs of men.
reason: One of the, kind of, grounded political thinkers your reference is James Harrington and, like, the Republican radicals and this idea of a universal militia which, really, is kind of at the base of the 2nd Amendment when you dig down to it.
reason: What does that mean in the modern context, to you?
Wilson: So the 2nd Amendment, if we’re being honest, comes from this Neo-Republican tradition, from a controversy in Republican politics as a reaction to Monarchy that has nothing to do with our current concerns, right? We are decadents, we are provided for, you know, a political economy has- and the division of labor have seen to it that we don’t really feel the need to be our own farmers, our own soldiers and really, like, whole civic beings in the way our Republican theory of the 18th and 19th century saw that we might be. The early republic of America is gone, and those Republican radicals are having a conversation we don’t even understand, but one of it’s lingering effects was written into our document and it was that all men, all free holders would have military grade weapons, they would form the basis of the defensive forces of the country so that there wouldn’t be a standing army or a mercenary force and so that we would have a better moral economics, civic structure that would be less prone to a kind of corruption that could create military forces that could then overturn the country. It almost makes no sense at all anymore, and, in fact all- even the good 2nd Amendment literature calls it embarrassing or terrifying, but it’s here. And almost like in the work of Agamben- almost completely unique in history, the founders wrote in a duty to resistance and a right to military grade hardware into the founding documents, incredible. Incredible to me.
reason: Governments control nuclear weapons and other high grade weaponry, so what sense does it make to even have everyone armed? does it matter?
Wilson: If I want to put my Liberal hat on I could say ‘sure, governments control nuclear technology but, as the big lawsuit I have against the State Department demonstrates, governments have never controlled certain calibers of weapons, from their birth. They’ve never actually controlled the people’s right to keep and bear arms. That’s an Anglo-American tradition that was always first in the hands of the people. So you could say like ‘well we live in a high tech age, a post cold war age of really incredible technology that the government controls from birth’ but that’s never been true of the firearm. Perhaps the technological moment then begins to make you question access to the firearm, but it’s never been easier to make these things and it’s always been easy to make them. But let me take my Liberal hat off and go back to this Neo-Republican stuff, I argue or claim that it doesn’t matter what the origins of the 2nd Amendment were. With the internet we can transform this thing into duty to resistance on a global scale, right to resistance on a global scale, and we don’t even need to use the words ‘rights’ or ‘duty’. If I, if it’s simply a fact that the internet serves guns now, this is just a point of political life.
reason: You’re someone who runs towards the outrageous and, you know, staking out, kind of, a provocative .position, as opposed to, say, seeking middle ground and trying to find compromise there. I guess my question is: why are you such a mischief maker, Cody?
Wilson: Middle ground, man. Here’s the thing, right? What’s the middle ground on liberty and tyranny, right? Like, you know, I’m gonna throw the softball here, right? Should I announce my intention to join the cabinet of Gary Johnson or something when he wins? Give me a break, you know? Give me a break. There’s no middle ground here, alright? We’re facing an overwhelming tide of technological superstatism, surveillance and control, harnessing of the financial networks, the information flows and desubjectification, I mean, like, of your mind, man. So no there’s not enough extremity and there’s not enough mischief.
reason: One of the amazing aspects of the creation of the Liberator is the way, the role that the media played. And you go into great detail about their reactions to what you were doing and I mean this was at the most nascent stage where the gun was just an idea and you were just, kind of, leaking out details about what your ambition was and there was media freak out immediately. And I mean, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in particular was kind of your bête noire. She would constantly be mocking you and saying ‘this isn’t real’ yet there was a kind of nervous energy to it all. How did you view the media and use them as a tool for your own ends?
Wilson: I felt, actually, there was always a mocking, like, incredulity. I mean, Rachel Maddow, one of her first comments ever I remember was ‘look at that gun not failing.’ You know, it was one of these idea- or she would say ‘yeah it’s a gun, but it’s a crappy gun’ I was like ‘well I’ll take it, right?’ It was like, well they have to color the event and, okay, fine. But there is the event. And, of course, in so many moments early in the project, just the idea of the event, it was still just a simulation it was still just images. It was still just, if you only knew the terribly, like, embarrassing vulnerable physicality of these objects would just crumple and fall apart, right? Like, they were preserved and made so strong in these images. They were, I think I called them like these hand maidens of the event. Yeah they wanted to shepherd it and tell you ‘nah like it’s really weak, don’t worry about it, it’s kinda funny almost.’ But it’s happening, and they can’t help but mark the fact that it’s happening. Even if, in my mind at the time it wasn’t quite happening yet, right? That’s the nervous relationship with the media that we have.
reason: And there’s a kind of irony that they helped conjure it into reality-
Wilson: Conjuring, perfect.
reason: -despite being afraid of it.
Wilson: The finer points of the media is that they don’t wait for the actual terror of the event to happen, they jump in to the situation and complete it themselves in this nervous anticipation that we talked about. So, take Liberator for example, once Liberator was finished, no one waited for terrorists to bring it onto trains, journalists smuggled it onto trains and then took the pictures and put it up on Daily Mail. Same thing in Israel, journalists snuck it through the, into the Israeli parliament, I mean, incredible. And this is actually, like, this is predicted in the media theories Jean Baudrillard. They don’t wait for the organic natural event to complete itself, they’ll jump into the void and make it happen. So the media can not help themselves. If I can get something 80% of the way, they will take it to it’s completion and then a bit further than that. They can be depended upon to do this.
reason: I can’t help but think of a particular person when you’re talking about all this. The media pushing a phenomenon into existence and that person is Donald Trump.
reason: And we’re taping this before the election so we don’t know, you know by the time this airs he’ll either be president or Hillary will be president, so what–do you feel any—not necessarily political kinship but some-
Wilson: Guilt, I’m guessing-
Reason: [laughs] -other sort of guilt or kinship to Donald Trump. You know? Like what’s your analysis of that as someone who himself has hacked the media in a way?
Wilson: Who can feel kinship to Donald Trump? I- he is, he is alone in his singularity. He is, I think, an innocent almost like atavistic force, right? He’s this almost like, almost totally childish in his complete innocence, like he is completely honest to whatever he is but totally inscrutable. And that’s not me calling him like, insulting him and calling him a fool. The man is a genius and has incredible instincts and certainly understands these things about the media in a more natural way than I ever will and many of us ever will. I can’t- I can’t place him, no one can place him and this kind of blindness, this kind of total reflectivity is surely what is propelling him to almost- almost clinching the presidency. Look, I’m looking at the polls today he’s in the margin of error everywhere, nationally and he’s about to close in New Hampshire here and maybe even Colorado, I mean, how is he doing it? I don’t know, do I feel any affinity? I feel awe like everyone else, complete awe. And I tip my hat just a bit to him in the book, I mean you know, I was thinking of things in the very beginning before Wiki-Weapon that involved concrete manipulations and going to different markets and kind of trying to pull media, I mean Donald Trump can play every one of these games simultaneously on every level everywhere, he found the seam, he found the thread and he’s pulled it, you know? At the same time there’s a huge unconscious force that is propelling him, right wing ethno-nationalism, brexit, like all of these- the suppressed remainder is returning and Donald Trump is, I guess, riding the wave.
reason: You have some harsh words for the so-called maker movement in this book and it, you know, ostensibly you’re part of it. The movement where people are seizing the means of production for themselves and just making things for themselves.
Wilson: Why even use the word seize, right? A maker would never use the word seize, you have to dial it back. Repeat your question.
reason: What would be a more appropriate verb in your opinion?
Wilson: The Makers…. “hug” the means of production, maybe.
reason: [laughs] Hug the means of production, and so you view them as kind of frivolous. Can you tell me what your problem is with the self-anointed makers movement?
Wilson: Funny that you would say that ‘well you’re part of the maker movement.’ Well I was never made to feel that way and I was never consciously represented as that. If anything there’s been, in the beginning of our project there was a fight with the traditional crowd, the gun control crowd, and a political crowd, and then this other fight with the people who were supposed to be kind of working with the same technology as us. This total, well an extirpation really, I mean, purging everything that we’re doing from their message boards, administrators telling people not to link to our content, right? In the sub cultural level. And then on the higher level, the masthead publications, the magazines, Make Magazine, this level of curating our content, telling that what we’re doing is an abortion of their principles and we’re really kind of mucking it up for everybody while simultaneously I began to realize, in consumption of their own media ‘oh my god, we are the promise of their movement.’ If what, if anything of what they said was true then it was like, we were reindustrializing, we were doing actual real physical things, making like useful objects with their technology and then propelling those into other people’s hands who actually wanted to use them. But this project around you right here is perhaps the most living open hardware project. This is what a maker project should be. I, you can go to conferences and where they all scratch their heads and look at each other, stare at each other in the face and go ‘how can we make open hardware work?’ Well you have to find a good application, you have to deliver something to people that they actually want, that’s often constrained politically, there’s like superficial political scarcity, okay? There’s no patents, design patents, utility patents, copyright, there’s nothing on these devices, these are open platforms. We sell them by the thousands, and we make money on them, we propel ourselves into lawsuits and we do R&D, this is an open hardware project and yet we are not claimed by this movement. We’re not claimed by this movement because we openly reach for the political in the beginning. We say ‘making means this, it doesn’t mean this kind of just permanent diversion into nostalgia, this permanent diversion into the sandbox of late adolescence even well into adulthood, grow out your neckbeard, play Minecraft, and kind of sing about how you built something out of Legos today.’ Right? This is to be ridiculed on this level, right? You have to grab like the importance and urgency of the moment and I thought the most harsh thing I ever said in the book about the makers is that their revolt was not Luciferian it was not serious. The flagship machine of the maker movement in 2012 was called the Cupcake CNC. These aren’t serious people.
reason: Let’s talk about what you are doing here in opposition to, you know, the Cupcake CNC.
Wilson: Well I, but to be clear, right, my words are critical but I don’t style us as an opposition to the makers. They do not form a part of the horizon of our ambitions. They’re simply a kind of unhappy you know sad little thing wroth talking about. The arrows and sticks that they threw so, are so inconsequential and, I mean, we run this shit, man.
reason: People want to know what’s going on in your workshop now and you’ve moved from printing plastic guns, the Liberator that’s documented in the book to metal guns. You have something called the Ghost Gunner, could you tell us about the Ghost Gunner project and what you hope to achieve with it.
Wilson: I want to be clear though, I mean, I didn’t abandon nor did my engineers abandon our work in 3D printing. The Liberator printer is just around the corner here in the shop, we got two 3D printers in this shop, we do 3D printing in our work here and we still work with guns and I have an off-site research and development center for 3D printing that has the most advanced current3D printers. We’re doing that work but there’s been in the years since Liberator this total stop work forced upon us by the government. Now a committed anarchist in the internet go ‘okay well post your stuff anyway if you’re so big and bad, go post it, why can’t you post your stuff?’ We believe that we can carve out or preserve some of what we did in the courts right now, at least we have the opportunity to, and we have the resources and the means to, we have the legal talent to, and so I built the Ghost Gunner, this parallel organization company that surrounds us now, we make a milling machine, we sell a milling machine that helps you finish AR15s, AR10s, soon 1911 frames. You can have the real physical implement to military specification in your hands. You can complete that for yourself outside the federal firearms network, that’s a real, that’s a real good thing for people. People like to buy that and when they buy that they support our lawsuit so I don’t have to stand out there all day being like ‘oh I’m a victim, help me. oh please the government wants to get me.’ So this project is to help us preserve the days and the moments and what we thought we gained in the events of the book ‘Come and Take It.’
reason: So you see this as kind of pre-emptive insurance policy against gun control, because now-
Wilson: Oh the Ghost Gunner?
reason: The Ghost Gunner, yeah.
Wilson: We’re trying to push through facts on the ground that change what the political reality is independent of our institutions and our processes, okay? Hopefully one day it won’t matter what these men and women in black robes say because you just know that you can download the AR15 from the internet, crank one out in your garage, crank two out in your garage if you’re having a bored Saturday, okay? This is real, this is more real than any Reagan appointee clinging to life somewhere in New Orleans who tells you something about your technology, can never force upon your life, this is reality.
reason: Can you tell us a little about the lawsuit and it’s affected your work?
Wilson: Okay, a couple days after we released Liberator, the government finally said ‘okay naw, no this isn’t gonna go.’ And so began a process where we were stymied and forced into strange processes and boxes where we were just constantly deferred, deferred, deferred. And, you know, if you read the great political philosophers of the moment, all of their theories revolve around ‘real politics is simply in deferral.’ All politics is now deferral of strange forces. And so about a year into this process, once my lawyer, once I stopped listening to my lawyers telling me ‘oh it’s any day, any day.’ I was realizing ‘okay this is it, it’s just going to be this permanent deferral. We will have to mount a challenge, we will have to build a team together, we will have to, like, build a at chest to officially challenge this in the language of the state, in constitutional terms, bring official constitutional challenge.
reason: Just to be clear on the basic facts, this was coming from the State Department?
Wilson: That’s right, there’s a bureau in the State Department which administers the Arms Export Control Act, so this isn’t DOD, it’s not the Army, it’s not ATF, it’s the State Department. And curiously they look at apparent foreign affairs and say ‘well if Americans do this, and do too much of this and speak too publicly about this, it interferes with the Executive’s power to administer foreign affairs, or to be a good Executive of foreign affairs. So because a foreigner could download the Liberator plans, no American has the right to download the Liberator plans.’ This is the literal argument in court. And it’s not a difficult one. If it was about dildos, if it was about birth control, if Saudi Arabia didn’t want it’s citizens to download plans for birth control on the internet, do you think I’d be in court for three years at this point? We know the answer to this question. It’s about guns and gun cases are losers in this federal judiciary, in these appellate courts, their losers. Literally the 3 judge panel majority opinion statement, the lynchpin statement was, you know ‘normally the constitution is a very strong protector of liberties, but in this case…’ So, in certain cases, especially gun cases, get’s to just wave around the words ‘national security’ without making a specific claim.
reason: Is there not a serious concern there that, you know, when we see something like ISIS for instance where they are an extremely decentralized movement and they inspire people over here to go on shooting sprees that this kind of technology is going to enable that so there’s going to be some sort of control over it. That’s the argument that, as I understand it.
Wilson: I think that’s a fair question for you to ask in the nature of objectivity, I just, maybe I don’t consider it a serious enough question. I just look at the capital stock of guns in this country, more than 300 million, now there’s estimates of 4 to 600 million guns in this country and then I look at the nascence of our technology. I mean it’s so in it’s earliest phase, and then I look at how ISIS actually gets it’s weapons, from federal firearms licensees sure, but through the direction of the State Department and the CIA and other proxies and affiliates in other countries that are supposedly NATO members I mean, come on. They’re driving this violence and there’s no chance that we could ever drive it in a comparable and, what is it, proportionate way.
reason: One thing that I found interesting, when you were talking about that situation was your analysis of the medicalization of language that happened-
Wilson: Thank you for reading that.
reason: -for gun control. Could you tell me a little about that pivot politically and what you think that the end result of that is gonna be?
Wilson: This medicalized, common sense, and product safety liability discourse of gun control is now obvious and everywhere. But we were beginning to see it successfully focus grouped in 2012 and 2013 and then in March of 2013 Andy Hook Promise came around and silicon valley got behind it and Bloomberg demonstrated that his plan now, even before Manchin-Toomey directly failed, but his plan would be to go state by state, to use a suburban discourse, right? Of moms and synthesizing the old Moms Demand Action and Brady Center rhetoric into a rhetoric of products liability and safety and things that are unobjectionable. When we say gun safety now what do we mean? right? To slip into this kind of ambiguous rhetoric.
reason: It’s no longer gun control, it’s gun safety now, yeah.
Wilson: Right and that cuts against them in some ways but it many ways it doesn’t and it propels ballot initiatives because everything’s unobjectionable, the public polling statewide is at 80%, we were seeing, granted my book was published only recently, but of course this was written a couple years ago, at the time it wasn’t totally clear to everyone that this is where the discourse was going so I was in Europe at the time explaining to people ‘look they’ve gone, you know, they’ve focus grouped this shit underground man. they’re gonna go toward this wholly medical encapsulation of everything, they’re now going to develop personal and public pathologies of gun ownership, they’re going to couch everything in language of safety.’ There was this arc that we were beginning to understand very early in Wiki-Weapon that they were going to change the flow of the language about gun control and then that was what happened.
reason: Yeah and I mean the shift towards safety and what you call the kind of suburbanization of the language. It appeals, I think, particularly to the baby boomer generation, you have some unkind words for the baby boomers in your book as well. You go on a very entertaining rant about the pilot of The Newsroom which is this kind of terrible ode to baby boomer values. What’s your beef with the boomers?
Wilson: The spoiled children of history, okay? The generation that’s had the easiest time perhaps that any generation ever will, ever has. And that they can still point the finger as hard as they do. Now sure, millennials are wrecked and generation z even more so, we almost can’t handle adversity yet, but at the same time we still have to live with a lot of it. We save more than generations before us, we have to live with a permanent kind of underclass income despite like our over leaning ambitions. That tension produces psychological dislocations, an intense need to cultivate an individual personality and look at us struggle, right? In the ways that the baby boomers never had to. They just had to keep their asses out of the war, you know, sing odes to their parents and spin their little prayer wheels and just, you know, on one income build nuclear families and take advantage of all that easy credit over the years and then ask us what the problem is when everything’s falling around, fucking around us every day.
reason: Stratasys, a 3D printer manufacturer, repo’ed your printer once word got out that you were gonna use it to print a 3D gun and they actually reported you to the ATF for what you were doing. Indiegogo took down your campaign at some point. You’re basically toxic to a PR-obsessed America, yet you did get published by a corporate publisher. How did you manage that and what’s that relationship been like? Were they surprised at what they’d purchased?
Wilson: [laughing] Hold on. My troubles with corporate America never ended and indeed, like, aren’t even the ones detailed in that book aren’t even impressive compared to the ones I’ve had in the past two years. It never ends and we know about things like Operation Choke Point, how the banks, the merchant processors and people consider working like this. Extreme and overwhelming is the, is my relationship with corporate America and to the point now where I don’t put my name on applications. I don’t put my name on official, you know what I mean, correspondence and underwriting, I have to use other companies and other people. All credit where credit is due to my Liberator Agency Foundry, at the same time you might expect that most of the publishers I visited were like ‘oh my god, uh no. no we’re not gonna do this.’ There was no bid to many things, and look I’ll go ahead and say it because I’ve been working with, or trying to work with a long time, Penguin, the Penguin group were a bunch of right assholes about it. I mean not only were they just like ‘no thanks.’ and you can say no thanks, but they were like ‘this book is evil. and it would be incorrect and wrong to publish this book.’ and that’s real talk. So tell me there’s not gatekeeping in publishing, there certainly is. But you can break through, if your, you know, head is hard enough so. Simon and Schuster put this thing out. I think they always wanted something more accessible, but this is what they got.
reason: It’s impressive that they backed it and but even so you did get a chapter censored. There’s a chapter and not by Simon and Schuster but by government. There’s a chapter that is, I’d say, about 80% redacted. Could you tell me what happened there?
Wilson: In the United States of America you can’t actually publish information related to making guns to the public, you can’t do it, it’s illegal. Now, the government knows they can’t literally go and scoop up all that stuff, it would be an overwhelming reaction. But I’m under a particular scrutiny by both the Defense Technology Security Administration and this directorate under the State Deprtment that administers ITAR. And it literally is a crime for me to publish the things that I published so I thought that I must publish them and I must show you their redaction.
reason: With the Ghost Gunner you are, my understanding is, you’re able to sell the instructions to print them but you can’t give them away for free, is that right?
Wilson: Yeah that’s right. Because the way I want to give my plans away, I want to put them on the internet, or I wanna leave them at a book store where anyone can come pick them up, both of those are considered illegal by the United States government. But of course you can sell anything in this country, I can sell a Ghost Gunner, I can sell a Ghost Gunner overseas and I can sell the Ghost Gunner software to anyone who’s a US citizen with a US address.
reason: Any idea or theory of why that it’s true that you can sell something but not give it away?
Wilson: It doesn’t follow like a coherent idea. After the cold war, I mean you can trace the whole history of the Arm’s Export Control Act from the second world war. What was first just a limited, right, temporary restriction on literal defense articles during wartime became the framework for an entire cold war thinking about technology and technological exchange in an era where ‘uh oh it’s very important that our adversary not acquire our technology. that it not even infiltrate our free university system.’ So it became a way of guarding and guiding how we even exchange knowledge in formal and public settings. We’re living with the consequences of the cold war here. These regulations that I’m fighting haven’t been amended since 1984 officially. There is some interim final rules but they don’t even cognisize like an internet, an internet isn’t talked about. So when you finally have an internet exploding half of these regulations there’s no way to capture it and so they have to simple assert power where there is none and you go fight about it in court and get a bunch of judges who hate guns to just kind of be like ‘well yeah I don’t see anything wrong here.’
reason: If people want to support you and your project and what you’re all about, how can they best do that?
Wilson: To support the work of Defense Distributed, you can buy a Ghost Gunner, you can buy an 80% receiver, you wanna build an AR15? But an 80% receiver, a parts kit, from us, you know. You want to do that work, you’re supporting the work of Defense Distributed, our efforts in court, our research and development which goes right back to the public. If you wanna get to know more about us, read the book alright? I’m selling a book, read it. We come from a place of true millennial disaffection but we believe in a reality of politics which makes us romantics because politics is dying, politics is evaporating. Wake up, wake up my god, that doesn’t mean you have to vote for Trump, but pay attention to projects like ours and the Crypto-Anarchists, support public key encryption, support bitcoin, do everything you can to get the hell out of here and support the Balkanization of this overwhelming power.
reason: Cody Wilson, thanks very much for talking to us.
Wilson: Thanks man.
reason: For Reason, I’m Zach Weissmueller.