While others flock to gun stores and gun shows to snap up weapons and ammo before looming restrictions dry up the supply, some gun enthusiasts are scurrying to the Internet to download blueprints for gun components to be created with devices called 3D printers that produce three-dimensional solid objects from a digital model.
This additive manufacturing technology has been used for years to make jewelry, footwear, dental and medical items, and in many other fields. 3D printers usually cost thousands of dollars.
However, the digital gun designs also are becoming scarce in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Thingiverse, a digital sharing forum maintained by the manufacturer of the 3D printer Makerbot, recently removed all files from its website related to firearm designs. The move was anticipated by Defense Distributed – a nonprofit online, open-source organization – that downloaded as many designs as possible before the files were removed.
Earlier in the year, Defense Distributed spearheaded a project known as Wiki-Weapons with the goal of giving users the ability to create fully functional 3D printed guns through online designs.
In an interview with Glenn Beck's website, theblaze.com
, the nonprofit's founder, Cody Wilson, called the Thingiverse move a form of censorship.
"Just like people were rushing to stores to buy guns, there was a virtual rush to gun files . . . People are just interested in preserving the information," said Wilson, noting that most of those performing the downloads probably don't own 3D printers themselves.
All the gun-related designs obtained by Defense Distributed prior to the Thingiverse deletion have been reposted on a new site called Defcad.org.
Not all the visitors to Defcad.org are from the United States, however, with many coming from China, South America, Europe, and Russia, according to Wilson.
In addition to private citizens accessing the 3D firearm designs, Wilson has recorded lengthy visits from at least 17 U.S. government websites, including the Department of Homeland Security, NASA and NYC.gov.
Wilson says he is in the process of relocating Defcad.org to a new web server, fearing that because of the website's content his current hosting service might attempt to force him to remove the firearm designs at a future date.
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