Cody Wilson set the law and the internet ablaze with 3D printable guns. His work essentially transformed general use fabrication tools, like BoXZY, into gun making factories.
Now, BoXZY is front and center in a battle being waged against Defense Distributed (Cody Wilson’s company) because of its unique capabilities. The battle is to stop Defense Distributed from publishing files that allow users to make guns from the anonymity and comfort of their home. As CEO of BoXZY, I feel I must now weigh in on this important legal battle.
Cody Wilson essentially armed anyone who has access to a home CNC mill and/or 3D printer with pistols and assault weapons. There are no protections and no government gatekeepers, and the user can be mentally ill, a criminal, or an average person. Cody might as well of mailed firearms into everyone’s home.
So how do I feel about this and where does BoXZY stand? Well, I wouldn’t spend my life on an endeavor to arm anyone and everyone with an internet connection and a BoXZY with firearms. But, BoXZY and I stand for a free and open internet and this battle is not about guns. It’s about free speech.
I believe that censorship is the quickest way to erode the foundations of a well-functioning democracy. We should not equip our government with the ability censor ideas that it deems dangerous. Censorship simply cannot be a role that we want our government to take.
No government should be able to censor ideas and information that it deems dangerous.
We’re not China.
Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, disagrees with me.
Legal Action Against Publishing 3D Printed Gun Files
Josh Shapiro tweeted the following on July 29th:
“Tonight, I went to court to prohibit access to new 3D-printable guns in PA. These downloadable firearms were just about to be widely
available online. It’s an existential threat to our state & we stepped in to stop it. The site is – & will remain – dark throughout PA”.
Josh Shapiro carefully crafted his tweet to mask the concepts of censorship. That is obvious in his effort. Try rewriting his article in different words without screaming government censorship.
Shapiro’s tweet can easily be summarized both accurately and succinctly:
“Tonight, we went to court to censor the internet. The publication of this information is an existential threat to our state and we stepped in to stop it. We’ll continue to censor throughout PA.”
If the practice of free speech is an existential threat to a state, then the state is the problem—not the speech. Now, Shapiro and many other legislators expanded censorship beyond the state of Pennsylvania to federal proportions. A federal court issued a restraining order against Defense Distributed to suppress the information with federal law because of their efforts.
The Real Existential Threat
This censorship is the “existential threat” to our democracy. Shutting down DEFCAD is clearly and distinctly censorship of constitutionally protected speech.
The internet amplifies and multiplies freedom of speech. Information and freedom—they’re both dangerous, and they equip people with a wider range of possibilities to be both good and bad actors. The newer the freedom and information, the more dangerous to health and safety it is. And, the magnitude and diversity of information online creates unprecedented and unpredictable dangers. No doubt. And, there are real human consequence when we don’t confront these dangers.
However, DEFCAD and other similar sites make firearms very complex to regulate without creating more destructive outcomes than gun violence. Legislators are facing a world where the solutions have to be more complex than passing a law if they are to avoid compromising essential freedoms. That doesn’t mean short-sighted legislators aren’t going to try to keep it simple.
Legislators are facing a world where the solutions have to be more complex than passing a law if they are to avoid compromising essential freedoms
These Legislators are responding to new freedom, and its resulting danger, like someone threw a rattlesnake into a crib. To get the snake out of the crib, they’re lighting their house on fire through censorship. We need a more subtle, sophisticated approach—than reflexive outrage, knee jerk legislation, and censorship.
Freedom of speech is a fatal place to be irresponsible and impulsive with your democracy.
American politics is rife with corruption and authoritarianism, right now. America is vulnerable. Now, maybe even more than at any other time in our nation, we need to be especially sensitive to threats to free speech. We should be touchy—oversensitive even—to those threats. And, any attempt by our government to censor anything should be met with a heavy presumption of wrongness and outrage.
I am not going to muddy the fight for free speech by sharing my, or BoXZY’s, stance on gun ownership. This is a complex topic. It may be that gun ownership is as fundamental to maintaining true democracy as freedom of speech. I don’t know yet, and I don’t think it’s an essential part of this discussion. But, I am sure that radical freedom of speech is essential to democracy.
Radical freedom of speech is essential to democracy.
I’ll just say that BoXZY stands with you in whatever you want to share and make responsibly. BoXZY wasn’t designed for making guns; it was designed to give you the freedom to make what you want to make.
Freedom means making whatever you want. Preserving freedom means sharing whatever you want. Keep making. Keep sharing. Keep the internet free and open.