Danger in 3-D: The Rapid Spread of Printable Pistols


Wilson is in his mid-20s, slim and fashionably unshaven. He loves weapons and likes to talk. He is no dummy. He recently suggested to conservative TV host Glenn Beck that he read the works of the post-structuralist philosopher Michel Foucault.

Wilson lives in Austin, Texas, where he attends law school -- with moderate enthusiasm. He seems to feel unchallenged at the university, and probably the only reason he sticks with it is that he believes in the importance of knowing the laws of your opponent if you hope to defeat him. Wilson wages his fight from a duplex apartment in an upscale neighborhood of Austin, with tree-lined streets, only a few minutes from the university. His BMW convertible is parked outside.

Inside, Wilson, after closing the door, begins the conversation by talking about freedom. He says that his pistol is intended to humiliate governments, both democratic and undemocratic. He says that it is intended to start a revolution. And if innocent people die in the process, he adds, it's an acceptable consequence because, "after all, freedom itself is in under siege."

For someone who is willing to bring terror and suffering to his country in the name of freedom, Wilson is surprisingly accommodating. He offers water and chocolate cookies.

He says that his weapon was downloaded from the Internet more than 100,000 times within two weeks, so that copies of the files are now on computers in countries like the United States, Russia, Egypt, Spain and Germany.

Exactly how many?

"I have no idea," says Wilson. "It isn't possible to determine that anymore."

Once something is online, it can spread like the bird flu.

Wilson likes to spend his free time at shooting ranges, and he proudly shows the rest of his apartment and the weapons he owns.

An AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle is in a carrying case under the kitchen counter, plenty of ammunition sits on a table in the living room, and books on the fracture strength of polymers share a chair with the works of Proudhon and Baudrillard.

In the combination bedroom and office, an American flag hangs on the wall, socks and underwear lie on the floor, a matte-black AK-47 stands against the wall next to the bed, a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun, also black, is leaning against the AK-47, and there is an old Mosin-Nagant, the rifle with which Soviet soldiers fought the Germans in World War II, is propped against his desk. Wilson is particularly fond of the Mosin-Nagant. Commenting on the fact that a piece of wood in its stock was replaced, Wilson says: "It's possible that it was once used to smash someone's skull."

The tour ends at the desk and the bed, with Wilson, surrounded by guns, socks and underwear, standing there with a look of expectation on his face. For him, a day without provocation is apparently a lost day.

Plastic Pistol Pioneer

Whey you ask Wilson why he does what he does, and whether his motives are perhaps political, he says that he is a libertarian. Radical adherents to this political movement see governments as the stuff of the devil. Wilson also refers to his weapon, the Liberator, as the "great equalizer" and claims it proves that gun control by the government is an illusion.

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