Cody Wilson Feels an Obligation to His 3D-Printed Guns—But Not Those Who May Die Because of Them

3D Guns Q&A, Austin, USA - 01 Aug 2018

Eric Gay/AP/REX/Shutterstock

This article was originally published in the October ’16 issue of Esquire.

By the time the State Department contacted him to take them down, the plans Cody Wilson released for the Liberator, his 3-D-printed gun, had been downloaded more than 100,000 times. That was three years ago. Since then, he’s become a poster boy for homemade weapons (and, tangentially, free speech) who has fashioned himself as a kind of philosopher-anarchist for the millennial set. We talked to Wilson, 28, about his upcoming book, Come and Take It: The Gun Printer’s Guide to Thinking Free, to try to understand his loaded ideas.

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ESQUIRE: You grew up in a household that didn’t have much of a relationship with guns. How old were you when guns became a big part of your life?

CODY WILSON: I guess 22 or 23. When I moved to Austin [from Arkansas] to go to the University of Texas School of Law, I bought a shotgun. Like, “Well, it’s time for me to have a gun.” And when you get one, you don’t stop there, it seems. So within months, I had an old Russian Kalashnikov. And then I became this guy.

ESQ: You say that you wish Wired hadn’t called you one of the “Most Dangerous People on the Internet.” What do you think it is that freaks people out so much?

CW: I think it’s the nakedness of claiming a political reality that’s not really admitted…. I mean, before something like Brexit, I think we’d all agree that modern, democratic superstatism had prevailed and we were all just fussing about our progressive differences. But I feel like some essential differences are starting to come to a head. The Trump thing, European ethno-nationalism—this stuff is back in style, man.


Assorted parts of Wilson’s plastic Liberator.

Lorenza Baroncelli

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ESQ: Do you take any responsibility for putting guns in the hands of people who truly won’t be ethical with them?

CW: No, that’s just how freedom is. We don’t prescreen anybody for use of a computer or a library book. This is the way we maturely handle the First Amendment in this country. We understand that bad people can misuse information, but that’s not an excuse to foreclose access.

ESQ: But information is different from a gun, don’t you think?

CW: Well, I would argue it’s not anymore—if it ever was! The object code I’m using can also be immediately made into something real. You can’t draw a line. You can’t divide them.

We understand that bad people can misuse information, but that’s not an excuse to foreclose access.

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ESQ: Is there anybody you wouldn’t want downloading it?

CW: I don’t go out of my way. I’m not dropping myself off at the psych ward and being like, Hey, guys, it’s free—take one. But I really do think allowing abuse is integral to protecting these rights in the first place.

ESQ: In your book, you never show a direct connection between guns and human death. I’ll just speak frankly: One of the parts that was chilling to me was the discussion of Newtown—you never really acknowledge that first-graders were gunned down.

CW: That’s right. It’s going to be chilling to [a mainstream] audience, and that’s why I included it. The people that work in my shop [Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed, founded in 2012], some of the people in the South that feel embattled when it comes to American gun politics—when we see a shooting, [we anticipate the anti-gun response] and we emotionally harden ourselves even more.

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ESQ: If I’ve understood you correctly, you feel an obligation to this idea but do not particularly feel an obligation to the real people who might die as a result of these guns.

CW: I think that’s a fair way to say it.

ESQ: You don’t have kids, do you?

CW: No, I don’t have kids.

ESQ: Speaking as someone who’s at an age when most people I know have kids, I feel it’s very evident that this is a book by someone who’s not yet at that stage of life.

CW: Yeah, this is basically a young man’s—a young, crazy man’s—book.

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Lifestyle – Esquire

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