Legal Grey Area Means 3D Gun Business Continues Despite Founder’s Criminal Record

The issue is testing the country’s definitions of what is a gun and what it means to sell a weapon.

By Kristen CabreraNovember 27, 2019 12:31 pm

Cody Wilson founded Austin-based Defense Distributed in 2012. It sells plans that allow people to make 3D printed guns. Last year, Wilson was arrested for having sex with a minor — a felony. But a co-report from The Trace and KUT Austin finds it looks like he’s back to running business as usual.

That is in part because Wilson ended up agreeing to plead guilty to lesser charges – injury to a child. He was sentenced to seven years probation and had to register as a sex offender.

“So under state law, he is not a convicted felon – but he is kind of walking this very straight-and-narrow tightrope,” The Trace investigative reporter Alain Stephens says.

That is because convicted felons cannot possess firearms. But, even under his current status, Wilson is barred under federal law from buying and selling weapons at gun stores. Stephens says the grey area here is a question of whether that is what his company is doing.

“Wilson argues though that all of this doesn’t mean he’s stepping back into a gun company, he’s stepping back into a tech company,” Stephens says. “That he never actually has to handle any sort of firearms physically at all and that means that he can kind of go back into this gun company.”

Stephens says it is the same situation Wilson has found himself in before.

“Even when you look at how he was running his gun business, it’s always kind of been how do you define what this business is,” Stephens says. “You know, the State Department argued that he possibly violated arms trafficking. Wilson argued that he’s simply putting out ideas and those are protected under First Amendment free speech. So this is really just kind of the life of Cody Wilson and how he likes to do business.”


Written by Laura Rice.