Future Tense

3D-Printing Gun Pioneer Cody Wilson Charged With Sexual Assault of a Minor

Cody Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed company, holds a 3D printed gun, called the 'Liberator', in his factory in Austin, Texas on August 1, 2018. - The US 'crypto-anarchist' who caused panic this week by publishing online blueprints for 3D-printed firearms said Wednesday that whatever the outcome of a legal battle, he has already succeeded in his political goal of spreading the designs far and wide. A federal court judge blocked Texan Cody Wilson's website on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, by issuing a temporary injunction. (Photo by Kelly WEST / AFP)        (Photo credit should read KELLY WEST/AFP/Getty Images)
Cody Wilson may be losing his moral authority to make innovative arguments about gun laws.
Kelly West/Getty Images

For years now, Cody Wilson has been known as the notorious pioneer of the homemade gun movement for fighting the U.S. government for the right to publish instructions for 3D-printed firearms online. On Wednesday, he made headlines for another reason: He was charged with sexual assault of an underage girl whom he allegedly came into contact with on the website SugarDaddyMeet.com.

According to the arrest warrant, Wilson met the girl at a coffee shop in Austin, Texas, before taking her to a hotel, where he allegedly sexually assaulted her and then paid her $500. Wilson is 31, and while we don’t know the exact age of the girl, the warrant says she is under 17. The car Wilson picked up the girl in is registered to his homemade gun business, Defense Distributed, and as local Austin station KVUE reports, court documents claim there is surveillance footage of Wilson meeting her at the coffee shop. Austin police told Wired reporter Issie Lapowsky on Wednesday that Cody Wilson is believed to be in Taiwan and missed his flight back to the U.S.

-Although Wilson’s gun activism is unrelated to his most recent legal trouble, if the charges of child sexual assault do prove true, one of the gun rights movement’s most passionate and innovative defenders may have a weaker case in claiming any ethical authority in delineating what he and his followers should and should not be legally allowed to do. Beyond the fact that Wilson is in the business of helping people circumvent gun laws with his GhostGunner 3D-printing machine and his sale of gun parts for DIY firearm-making, he often speaks to the press on the ethics of both owning firearms and online censorship. (In March, I interviewed Wilson after the Parkland school shooting on Slate’s If Then podcast.)

In 2013, Wilson published online plans for the “Liberator,” the first 3D-printed handgun in the world, which were reportedly downloaded more than 100,000 times in just two days. Just two days later, the State Department ordered him to take them down, citing export control laws that are intended to keep weapons from falling into the hands of criminals overseas. During the court battle, Wilson was unable to continue to post the plans, but that didn’t stop the digital files from circulating online.

In June, Wilson settled that yearslong legal case with the State Department. After the settlement, he announced he would begin publishing his gun plans again in August. That led attorneys general from eight states to sue the Trump administration to attempt to prevent Wilson from distributing his gun plans again, though of course they were still easily available online if you knew where to look.

According to KVUE, Wilson went by the name “Sanjuro” on SugarDaddyMeet and in text messages with the victim called himself “a big deal.” Sanjuro is the name of a 1962 Japanese samurai film by director Akira Kurosawa.