I once got arrested for attempted armed robbery. True story. And a long one I won’t bore you with, except to say that it involved a note saying: “I have a gun some gum” and a South African bank. I didn’t actually have a gun. Just a very optimistic view of other people’s sense of humour. I spent a few days and nights in the holding cells of the Johannesburg police station dealing with violent crime and made so many new friends. Making jokes in South African banks is, I can safely say, a mistake. Do not (despite this country’s reputation for prizing comedy) try this at home.
What you will soon be able to try at home, though, is making your own (actual, non-imaginary, non-comedy) gun. Another true story. It was in the news this week in the kind of article that I tend to read with a well-I’ll-be-darned-style “Huh!” until the implications set in. At which point I tend to swear quite a lot.
Cody Wilson, a young Texan lawyer and terrifying lunatic, designed the plastic gun and uploaded the blueprint to a file-sharing site for free download, calling it the ‘Liberator’. Cody was quoted, presumably while laughing maniacally and stroking a large white cat, as saying that his invention allowed people “to literally materialise freedom”. Knowing that soon anyone with anything from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds to buy a 3D printer will be able to produce an unlimited supply of working, untraceable, undetectable handguns makes me feel freer already. I’m pretty much soiling myself with liberation. Thanks, Cody.
Ah, you say! Don’t worry! It probably doesn’t work! These plastic guns are probably about as dangerous as your ‘gun/gum’! Wrong. The first gun produced from downloads was fired this week. Oh, good. Luckily, the United States is really good at legislating gun safety. Sigh.
Mad-eye Cody’s invention has one potential nemesis, though. The anti-piracy lobby. His blueprints will spread through file-sharing sites, and American lawmakers hate file-sharing more than they hate anyone trying to take away their freedom*. I look forward to awful adverts at the beginning of films telling me how honest gun manufacturers are being put out of business by piracy, and how ‘home gun-making is killing the arms trade’. Though not people, obviously. People kill people.
We can and should look upon Cody the barbarian’s actions with judgement, but we should also recognise that he is a product of our society. In America our society openly worships guns and rallies round them, and we in Britain laugh and point and occasionally weep. Meanwhile our own government uses bombs and drones and soldiers to kill enemies, real and imagined, and stocks up on nuclear weapons that could kill us all. We trade in arms, our government and business sectors as complicit as any Texan lunatic in the deaths resulting from the weapons we have dealt.
And mostly we just stand by. Content to interpret “blessed are the peacemakers” and “love your enemies” as figurative gestures, or mainly aimed at youth group squabbles or disagreements with neighbours. We tolerate and sometimes venerate violence as a creed and then we look smugly over the Atlantic and pretend we are better because we have managed to keep our body count largely outsourced.
But nations that live by the sword overseas should never assume that the atmosphere of violence that pervades their corridors and stock-floors of power has not made its way into the drinking water to be imbibed by ordinary people.
Cody Wilson’s invention may be just the tool those people need to express their ‘freedom’ here.
Image by Ivan Vicencio, via stock.xchng.