They talked about it like it was some sort of technological doomsday.
Wednesday, Aug. 1 was supposed to be the day when ready-made blueprints for 3D printed guns would be released on the internet, allowing anyone with a wifi connection to manufacture unlicensed, and untraceable, deadly weapons in their living rooms.
When Alfredo Orejuela heard about it, his reaction was something akin to an eye-roll.
Orejuela is the CEO of STEAMporio, which manufacturers cheap, easy to use 3D printers for sale to schools and maker studios. He’s also been experimenting with 3D printed plastic guns for years and thinks the battle over 3D printed guns ended a long time ago. Regardless of what a judge says, the blueprints are already out there — and have been for some time.
“We're in an era where people can get the latest Drake album or Infinity War at will,” he told VICE News. “To think you can control or stop the flow of data on the internet is absolutely ludicrous.”
The gun blueprints project started about five years ago, when Cody Wilson, a self-described crypto-anarchist and gun enthusiast, released online the designs for a fully 3D printed gun he called the Liberator.
They were available for only a few days before the government ordered him to take them down; in that time, the schematics were downloaded tens of thousands of times.
Wilson told VICE News that he is on an ideological mission to prove that an abundance of guns in America is inevitable, and that gun control is doomed.
“There's literally more guns than people, maybe two guns for every person in this country,” Wilson said. “You know you don't need a 3D printer to get to your nightmare scenario.”
Orejuela, who's no fan of firearms, doesn't share Wilson's vision. But he agrees with Wilson that 3D printing isn't to blame for the number of guns in the U.S. or the relative ease with which they are acquired.
For one thing, Orejuela says, the guns that 3D printing machines make really aren’t all that good: To produce one that would function without exploding takes days of painstaking work, and thousands of dollars of machinery. (Wilson concedes this much, telling VICE News the Liberator, “doesn’t really work.”) Plus, there are already easy-to-use machines that can make high quality guns and gun parts much more cheaply — including a CNC machine, which can produce parts out of metal.
What happens in the future is anyone’s guess — and Orejuela agrees it’s a certainty that 3D printing will only get easier, and cheaper. Quality, untraceable guns may very well be printable in people’s living rooms. But no amount of fretting will stop that.
This segment originally aired August 1, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.