Defense Distributed, a group headed by University of Texas graduate student Wilson, began navigating the uncharted material and regulatory waters around designing a gun to be printed from common plastic on a relatively low-cost 3D printer like the MakerBot Replicator.
Now, Wired’s Robert Beckhusen reports that Stratasys has voided the lease for the printer Defense Distributed had rented, and sent representatives to physically reclaim it last week
..a visit to the Austin, TX branch of the ATF turned into an unexpected questioning session for Wilson when he went down to investigate the legal requirements of the Defense Distributed project.
Beckhausen writes that, according to Wilson, “the ATF believes he’s not broken any laws, and the agency believes 3-D printed guns fall into a regulatory gray area, but he still needs to get licensed if he’s to manufacture a weapon.”
That runs contrary to the advice I received from ATF’s national branch last month, when a spokesperson told me that you don’t need to register as a firearms manufacturer if, like Wilson, you have no intent to sell.
“I was annoyed at first,” Wilson told me over email, “but this has only excited our network and contacts. Two steps forward. Getting another printer will be easy. Incorporating and filling out a bunch of federal paperwork is what’s regrettable.”
The Law in the case is incomplete. It is legal to make your own gun as long as you don’t sell it, which requires a license. However,the Undetectable Firearms Act makes it illegal to manufacture a gun that cannot be detected by an x-ray or metal detector.