This week’s Friday Film Pick is a new 24-minute documentary produced by Motherboard and distributed by Vice Magazine, on 3D gun printing (video after jump). The film peaks into the weird and extremely controversial world of Cody Wilson and associates, young gun-loving geeks who celebrate the intersection of firearms, freedom and the internet while name-dropping political philosophers and keeping Marx volumes within camera shot of kitchen-countertop DIY weaponry.
While Wilson, a self-described Crypto-anarchist, and his comrades do not articulate a complex nor intellectual counter-narrative to the justified moral panic around the accessibility of firearms in the US, their own philosophy of providing the tools and knowledge to make guns at home is definitely provocative and pushing the debate into new territory.
Wilson makes a lot of empty catch-phrase statements endemic to the digital native generation of privileged entrepreneurs, but his actions are boundary-pushing to be sure. Pushing the technology and diffusion of 3D gun printing in the wake of one of the worst years of gun violence in the US is a cultural and political development that demands attention (of which Wilson has been accused of sponging ferociously) and also measured, critical dialogue that moves beyond empty Manichean antagonism of good and bad.
Wilson hints at these directions when responding to the criticism around the need for semi-automatic and multiple-round firearms when he retorts: “Why do we need two houses? Why earn more than $400,000 per year?” I get where he’s going, but can’t we agree somewhere along the line that material objects designed to make killing more efficient and material objects designed to provide shelter—no matter how similar in excess and hubris the examples—are fundamentally, crucially different?
Wilson doesn’t offer such discursive pathways out of provocative statements, nor does his less-astute nameless associate who, while in the field testing a newly printed lower receiver, says (with regards to mass-shootings like Sandy Hook) that the perpetrators would have found some other way, even without guns. History and the contemporary landscape of the rest of the world proves him very very wrong, despite the giddy enthusiasm. Still, a fascinating and controversial documentary that explores some of the “canaries in the coal mine” of arms dissemination in the US (who, incidentally, have just been granted a Federal Firearms license).