Coming on the heels of California Governor Jerry Brown's veto of the "Ghost Gun" bill, Wilson - a self-described anarchist - as taken another shot at government overregulation with the Ghost Gunner.
By applying new technology to the firearms industry, Wilson hopes to bring the power of creation back to the masses. According to Wired.com,
Wilson’s latest radically libertarian project is a PC-connected milling machine he calls the Ghost Gunner. Like any computer-numerically-controlled (or CNC) mill, the one-foot-cubed black box uses a drill bit mounted on a head that moves in three dimensions to automatically carve digitally-modeled shapes into polymer, wood or aluminum. But this CNC mill, sold by Wilson’s organization known as Defense Distributed for $1,200, is designed to create one object in particular: the component of an AR-15 rifle known as its lower receiver.
That simple chunk of metal has become the epicenter of a gun control firestorm. A lower receiver is the body of the gun that connects its stock, barrel, magazine and other parts. As such, it’s also the rifle’s most regulated element. Mill your own lower receiver at home, however, and you can order the rest of the parts from online gun shops, creating a semi-automatic weapon with no serial number, obtained with no background check, no waiting period or other regulatory hurdles. Some gun control advocates call it a “ghost gun.” Selling that untraceable gun body is illegal, but no law prevents you from making one.
Exploiting the legal loophole around lower receivers isn’t a new idea for gun enthusiasts—some hobbyist gunsmiths have been making their own AR-15 bodies for years. But Wilson, for whom the Ghost Gunner is only the latest in a series of anti-regulatory provocations, is determined to make the process easier and more accessible than ever before. “Typically this has been the realm of gunsmiths, not the casual user. This is where digital manufacturing, the maker movement, changes things,” he says. “We developed something that’s very cheap, that makes traditional gunsmithing affordable. You can do it at home.”
According to their website, Defense Distributed has already sold more than 250 units and expects to close pre-orders shortly. With the price already raised from 999 to 1399, it would take a heck of a production run of lowers to justify the cost - but I'd still love to have one in the garage just in case.
The emergence of desktop CNC and 3D printing will be a revolution in manufacturing and will challenge a lot of the ideas of what was possible. The government has already shown it's willingness to crush this kind of innovation in the firearms world but will they be able to once machines like the Ghost Gunner are mainstream and manufacturing is no longer centralized with large corporations?