Homemade guns, also called “ghost guns” by a media intent on scaring the crap out of you, are nothing new. People have made firearms for ages.
In recent years, though, the ability to make them has been opened up quite a bit. It no longer takes a special set of skills or tooling to make your own firearm. Anyone can do it, and that’s worries some.
Cody Wilson is one of the people at the forefront of the homemade gun revolution. He started with 3D-printed guns and has kept on rolling.
Over at Forbes, they have a story about Wilson and his efforts, complete with a hyperbolic headline. However, there’s a bit he said that we really need to talk about.
The Biden administration recently proposed new regulations defining exactly what constitutes a firearm and which specific parts are required to have ATF-issued serial numbers for tracking. If enacted, Federal Firearms licensing and serial numbers will be required on many gun components that heretofore could be bought and sold without regulation. Wilson’s new software, which he intends to release later today, is designed to circumvent those controls by converting a 1.5 inch by 8 inch block of aluminum into the essential component of a firearm using one of Defense Distributed’s $2,500 Ghost Gunner 3 desktop printers.
Dubbed the Zero Percenter, because it can turn a completely untouched piece of aluminum into a firearm, the software and a few accompanying components are Wilson’s answer to what he considers government overreach. He seems to care little about the “open source” terrorism and crime it might unleash. So-called privately made firearms or ghost guns, the type Wilson has long championed, have confounded law enforcement officials for years. According to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, from 2016 through 2020, some 23,906 suspected ghost guns were recovered from crime scenes, including 325 homicides or attempted homicides.
“There’s always going to be this mystical platonic line where a component becomes more like a gun than not a gun, and to regulate those intermediary steps of manufacture in any serious level completely disrupts modern American manufacturing, the American system,” says Wilson, dressed in black and brandishing a 24-carat gold ring, embossed with the initials DD. “They are literally trying to control the world. But as the Zero Percenter demonstrates, blocks of metal are also guns.”
Wilson’s point about there always being a line where a component becomes a gun is an important one. Of course, since I’ve made the same point before, I’m a little biased.
See, while Wilson built a specific device that does all the machining and such, there are a ton of people with mills and lathes in their home workshops. They’re not that expensive, all things considered.
Most of them aren’t building firearms with them, granted, but they can if they want to. Currently, that’s the beauty of homemade guns.
But that line between material and gun is always going to be there and it’s something you can’t legislate away.
After all, blocks of steel or aluminum are too useful for too many other things to heavily restrict them. Hell, I’ve seen a video of a guy who built an AK receiver out of an old shovel. Are we going to get shovel control as a way to cut down on homemade guns?
I don’t think so.
Yet all this hubbub about trying to prevent people from building homemade guns is a distraction from any effort that might actually prevent us from having to worry all that much about it.
Because at the end of the day, if Cody Wilson didn’t present a device to do it for us, it wouldn’t matter because someone else would be building homemade firearms.