Memento Mori: The Ghost Gunner


The “Ghost Gunner” is produced by Defense Distributed, the group responsible for the Liberator, the infamous “3-D printed plastic pistol” that made waves in 2013. As you may recall, the Liberator was more of a provocation than a product, and when it comes to firearms manufacturing, Defense Distributed seems more interested in legality than reliability. According to an interview with founder Cody Wilson in Forbes:

Wilson denies advocating any sort of violent revolt in America. Instead, he argues that his goal is to demonstrate how technology can circumvent laws until governments simply become irrelevant. “This is about enabling individuals to create their own sovereign space…The government will increasingly be on the sidelines, saying ‘hey, wait,’” says Wilson. “It’s about creating the new order in the crumbling shell of the old order.”

Like the Liberator, the Ghost Gunner is less about manufacturing guns, and more about Defense Distributed’s libertarian interest in firearm regulations. Unlike the Liberator, the Ghost Gunner doesn’t involve 3-D printing. The Ghost Gunner is essentially a custom CNC milling machine that makes it somewhat easier to construct an untraceable firearm (sometimes called a “ghost gun”).

In the United States, it is possible and legal to build an unregistered AR-15 rifle from commercially available parts. There is only one component the U.S. government technically considers to be a “firearm”: the lower receiver. A complete lower receiver must be marked with a serial number before it is sold, but an 80% complete lower receiver can be purchased without registration. Fashioning this 80% component into a fully functional and untraceable rifle requires some skill; the Ghost Gunner claims to eliminate that need.

Andy Greenberg published an article on his efforts to produce an untraceable AR-15 rifle using the “Ghost Gunner” in Wired magazine this past summer:

I would build an untraceable AR-15 all three ways I’ve heard of: using the old-fashioned drill press method, a commercially available 3-D printer, and finally, Defense Distributed’s new gun-making machine.

The Ghost Gunner’s lower receiver looked obviously superior to my 3-D-printed one—and even more obviously superior to the hot mess of uneven aluminum I’d chewed up with the drill press.

FedEx and UPS have refused to ship the Ghost Gunner. According to UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, “to a certain extent, FedEx will have to get used to shipping gun-making machines.” If that is true, to a certain extent, we may all have to adapt to the consequences.

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