Back in December, the 3D printing company MakerBot announced its decision to purge designs for AR15 components and other weapons from its 3D printing wesbsite, known as Thingiverse. Prior to this date, it was perfectly legal to download the components of an AR-15 assault weapon from the internet.
This weapon was not only one of the guns used in the recent Newton, Connecticut shooting, it is also the weapon that Distributed Defense – a Wiki Weapons group – claims to have successfully created using 3D printed parts. In a statement released to the public, Makerbot’s spokesperson cited Terms of Service and legal issues as the reason for the decision:
“Thingiverse’s Terms of Service state that users agree not to use Thingiverse “to collect, upload, transmit, display, or distribute any User Content (ii) that…promotes illegal activities or contributes to the creation of weapons, illegal materials or is otherwise objectionable.” If an item has been removed, it is because it violates the Thingiverse Terms of Service.”
To wit, these Terms of Service have not changed, but Makerbot’s enforcement of them certainly has. By law, the company has the right to pull any items from its file list that they feel could be used in the commission of crime. And since one of the most heinous crimes imaginable was commissioned using parts that are freely available on their site, this change is hardly surprising.
Personally, the decision seems like a no-brainer. And simply saying they don’t want people using their website to construct guns and go on shootings sprees would have sufficed for me, no need to justify it by citing legal articles! However, said components and other firearm parts still remain available on several other open source internet websites. No telling if and when they will follow Makerbot’s lead, but I think we can expect them to endorse the ban while they can still do it willingly.
Given the pressure that has been placed on the White House to ban the sale of firearms of late, especially assault weapons, and the attention Defense Distributed got with their creation of an AR-15 rifle using certain “printable parts”, it quite likely that a gun control provision will be passed that makes it illegal to print any and all gun components.