On Friday, August 10, 2018, Shopify, an ecommerce and point-of-sale platform for merchants, sent an email to Cody Wilson, founder and director of 3D printing open source non-profit Defense Distributed, alerting him of the involuntary closure of his online store. Cody was given just five business days to export over two years’ worth of data from the platform and on Friday, August 17, 2018, Shopify is closing Wilson’s account permanently.
The following Monday (August 13, 2018), AR-15 manufacturers Spike’s Tactical, Franklin Armory and Rare Breed Firearms—which just released the much-anticipated Spartan lower receiver—were notified of some recent changes to the Shopify’s “acceptable use policy.” Without letting its customers and clients know when the new policy goes in effect, Shopify is going to restrict the sale of firearms, firearm parts, and ammo—including magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. In all, over 20 firearm categories will be banned. Both Spike’s Tactical and Franklin Armory use Shopify exclusively to sell its products online.
In a breaking news report on Ammoland.com, Spike’s Tactical’s General Manager Cole Leleux says his company has invested $100,000 in developing its ecommerce store on Shopify. He says, “This decision will have significant ramifications to our business and should concern every online retailer and Second Amendment supporter.”
Rare Breed President Lawrence DeMonico said, “We have spent the last three years developing the Rare Breed brand and more than $40,000 developing our Shopify site. Depending on how this policy is rolled out, this is a move that could put companies like ours out of business…”
And an attorney representing Franklin Armory—which has taken hits from Wells Fargo, Bank of American, CitiGroup, First Data, Intuit and PayPal—said, “The firearms industry is under an unprecedented attack from the leading facilitators of interstate commerce that deny legitimate firearm businesses access to important structural supports of modern business.”
What is Shopify?
Launched in 2006, Shopify is a Canadian-based ecommerce and point-of-sale company offering a simple and easy-to-use digital platform for merchants to build, sell and maintain their own online stores. There are currently 600,000 dealers with Shopify online retail stores. All software used on Shopify is proprietary, making it extremely difficult to transfer data to another platform.
Smaller companies and start-ups are particularly attracted to Shopify because of its simplicity. It also promises(d) to allow merchants to sell whatever they wanted as long as everyone on the platform operates and sells legally.
Last year, Breitbart opened an online store on Shopify, which Shopify received a lot of flak for allowing. In defense of his original intent, Shopify Chief Executive Tobias Lütke said, “…products are speech and we are pro free speech.”
But are you?
Since the Parkland shooting, gun rights have been constantly under fire and most recently, the anti-gun people’s fight has focused on restricting our right to the freedom of speech.
Why is this all coming to a head? Because of a little-known lawsuit between Defense Distributed and the Department of State that has been dragging on for years.
In the last six months, quite a few companies have changed their selling policies or severed ties with the NRA claiming, “social responsibility” for doing their part to address “gun violence.” For example, Citigroup stopped doing business with any company that sold “high-capacity” magazines and bumpstocks, Kroger stopped stocking magazines with pictures of AR-15s on them, Dick’s stopped selling MSRs, and Delta and United Airlines both quit their NRA membership discount program.
How any of these actions prevent guns getting into the wrong hands or stops criminals from using guns in crimes is beyond anyone’s scope of rational thought, but the attack on our Second Amendment rights continues…
GunLove’s friends on the retail side of the firearms industry have told us that Amazon is now stripping any reference to the AR-15 out of its product descriptions. Google has enacted a new policy banning any Google Play app that promotes the sale, manufacturing or modification of firearms. And Facebook automatically blocks any link relating to CodeIsFreeSpeech.com—the website where Defense Distributor’s gun blueprints are still available for download.
Without the media’s sensationalism and out-and-out lies about guns and gun laws, most of America would have never known there are free downloadable schematics to 3D print your own firearm available online completely legally.
Defense Distributed and 3D-Printed Guns
In 2012, Cody Wilson, along with colleagues from Defense Distributed, started to raise funds for what they called the Wiki Weapon Project. Their goal was to design and release open source files for a 3D printable firearm.
In 2013, the group was successful and published the schematics for a single-shot pistol called The Liberator. The Liberator is 99% percent plastic. It incorporates one metal part to remain legal under the Undetectable Firearms Act. Crude, inaccurate and unreliable, the Liberator has more chances of blowing up than it does actually firing a round.
Using the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) as an excuse, The State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance made Defense Distributed take down the blueprints. However, over 100,000 people had already downloaded the plans.
Defense Distributed then started selling a small CNC mill called the Ghost Gunner so people could finish off their AR-15 builds.
Claiming First Amendment rights violations, Wilson has been fighting the courts to gain the right back to publish his blueprints since 2015. Just this summer, Wilson won a settlement and set out to relaunch Defcad.com to again make his blueprints available to the public. But just weeks after, a federal judge in Seattle ordered a temporary restraining order on Defense Distributed and Cody, once again, had to remove the firearm schematics.
The Sky is Falling Mentality
This is when people started freaking out.
On July 30, 2018, actress and gun-control activist Alyssa Milano penned a much-exaggerated editorial about 3D-printed guns calling them “downloadable death” and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey Tweeted, “We are suing the State Department to stop the illegal distribution of 3D-printed guns. This is an imminent threat to public safety and we have a reasonability to ensure these guns are never available online in any form.”
Senator Chuck Schumer said, “I am sounding an alarm that come August 1, America is going to get a lot less safe when it comes to the gut-wrenching epidemic of gun violence. Ghost guns are not only scary, they’re outright dangerous in the way they can mimic the look and the capacity of a hardened, fully semiautomatic weapon.”
The Broward County Florida library system pulled all its 3D printers making them inaccessible to the public. Because guns.
Many other anti-gun organizations, politicians, news outlets and regular folks followed suit in expressing (absurdly) how “dangerous” this was, completely unaware that anyone was able to find blueprints for a 3D printed gun online and have been able for five years.
Are 3D-Printed Guns Legal?
Even before Defense Distributed, it has been and still is perfectly legal for you to make your own gun—whether it is CNC milled, forged or printed. You just can’t sell or give it away.
Here’s the thing—
- Making your own firearm isn’t new.
- These blueprints aren’t new.
- You can’t 3D print a complete AR-15.
- Besides the Liberator, the blueprints available need a mass amount of code before they are printable.
- And let’s be honest here, criminals aren’t printing guns.
First, it costs thousands of dollars to buy the equipment to make one. The 3D printer used to print the Liberator costs about $8,000. Second, the thing doesn’t even really work! It explodes more often than it fires. Third, it’s inaccurate. Due to the plastic barrel, the bullet doesn’t really get much velocity and there is no way of knowing it will actually hit its target.
Clearly, the 3D printed gun isn’t a problem. Name one crime or mass shooting committed with a 3D printed gun…
Go ahead. We’ll wait.
Quite frankly, all this Chicken Little clucking and wing flapping is ridiculous. Max Lobovsky, who is the CEO of billion-dollar 3Dprinting company Formlabs says, “It’s far enough away from now that we’d have a low-cost device that can produce a fully functional firearm. I don’t think anyone is particularly close. I think we’re at least 10 to 15 years away.”
I mean, you can buy a Hi-Point fresh off the shelf for under $200. Or if you’re a criminal—steal a gun or buy it illegally off the street. Either way, the 3D-printed gun isn’t a threat.
These “sky is falling” social media posts and news stories are gun grabbers’ attempts at making it seem like gun ownership is socially unacceptable, strange and extreme.
The fact is, though, Americans continue to purchase firearms in record numbers. Last month, the FBI performed 1,835,318 NICS background checks—the second highest number for background checks during the month of July. Same for June 2018. The only other month of June that did better was June 2016 when 1,935,691 background checks were run.
In 2017, Shopify’s Lütke said, “Commerce is a powerful, underestimated form of expression. We use it to cast a vote with every product we buy. It’s a direct expression of democracy. This is why our mission at Shopify is to protect that form of expression and make it better for everyone, not just for those we agree with.”
We hear you loud and clear, Lütke and we will cast our vote. We will express ourselves. We’ll let Shopify know just exactly how democracy works.
To let Shopify know how you feel, give them a call at 888- 746-7439. If a pro-gun rights, gun manufacturer or pro-Second Amendment company you shop at sells on Shopify, drop them a line, add a link to this post and kindly request they switch ecommerce platforms. Further, if you are a gun manufacturer or retailer, Spike’s Tactical is asking you reach out to them to discuss taking legal action. You can call Spike’s at 407-928-2666.