And if you're thinking, "Wait -- 3-D printable guns. That's a thing?" Why, yes, actually, this fall, the idea of a 3-D printable gun not only was out there, but demos on how to create them were distributed online and a collective called Defense Distributed tried to raise money on crowdfunding site Indiegogo for its Wiki Weapon Project, whose goal was to create a fully downloadable printable 3-D gun. (Its test run produced a gun, actually the AR-15; the trial printed gun broke after firing six rounds.)
While those events in themselves were controversial, the deaths of 20 first graders last week has made the idea of printable guns even more contentious, leading to Thingiverse's sudden takedown of the AR-15 design listing, which had been up since February 2012.
CNET reports that as of Tuesday, the plans to create a key component of the AR-15 assault rifle existed on the site, available for download:
Those plans, and plans for other firearm components have now been removed from Thingiverse. You can access [Michael] Guslick's old listing, and you can also find it on the Pirate Bay and elsewhere, but the printable STL files have been removed from Thingiverse, and the listing no longer turns up when you search there.
When asked about the deletion of these files, a Thingiverse spokesperson told CNET: "Thingiverse's Terms of Service state that users agree not to use Thingiverse "to collect, upload, transmit, display, or distribute any User Content (ii) that...promotes illegal activities or contributes to the creation of weapons, illegal materials or is otherwise objectionable." If an item has been removed, it is because it violates the Thingiverse Terms of Service."
Funny how that wasn't how it felt back in August, when CNET senior Editor Rich Brown pointed out these exact terms of service to Thingiverse and asked why plans for gun parts were available on the site.
The company has now changed its tune and yesterday sent Brown this note:
"Thingiverse has always been, and is currently, evolving...as is the company as it pursues innovation and growth. We have always had the discretion to take action for policy violations. Recent events served as the impetus here to take immediate action (and there were several) and reiterate or emphasize the site's focus on creative empowerment for products that have a positive impact."
If you want to see the rationale behind the Wiki Weapon project, here is a video about it: