A self-styled anarchist serves up a troubling vision of autonomous action that begins and ends with the prospect of digitally producing one’s own firearms.
“We are the heartworms of history.” So, rightly, writes Wilson, the founder of the collective Defense Distributed. Veterinary metaphors aside, the author sagely observes that readers will respond to his project to manufacture guns using 3-D printers in terms of personal politics: if you’re a First Amendment absolutist or a firearms or technology enthusiast of a libertarian bent, then the thought of someone freely distributing blueprints for such weapons may not be troubling. However, if you’re an ordinary citizen, the thought of still more weapons—and weapons not easily detected by X-ray scanners and the like—may induce a chill. Certainly, as Wilson writes, the owner of the 3-D printer that he leased for the job felt that the use was inappropriate; despite his jailhouse-lawyer protestations, it demanded that the leased printer be returned, prompting the response that forms the taunting title of this book. The author sometimes spins off into Kerouac-ian reveries that presumably indicate what a free spirit he is (“Its stale flicker, in red and white and blue, would struggle tonight to beat back the wrathful blackness galloping from the east”), but mostly, this is a straightforward take on the question of whether the Constitution and other laws in fact permit such activities—as various government representatives argued was not the case. Wilson likens himself to Edward Snowden, but any high-mindedness comes off as being more on the level of a fraternity prank, if a lethal and illicit one.
And what did Wilson get from the gun-printing project? Apart from “a lot of bitcoin” and “a lot of hate mail,” plenty of notoriety and a thick police file. Whether he should also get fat royalties for this book depends on your politics, too.