The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the Atmosphere. — Thomas Jefferson
The American Revolution had been over just three years when a group of Massachusetts farmers rose up against their state government and even tried to attack the (federal) Springfield Armory. Their reasons should have sounded familiar and noble to anybody who’d just lived through the revolt against England: unjust taxes and an unresponsive, corrupt, crony-filled government.
Instead of support and sympathy, however, Shay’s Rebellion was answered with outrage and hard-line crackdowns.
Thomas Jefferson was one of the few former revolutionaries who took the news of the rebellion with aplomb, even approval. While other former rebels (including the formerly rabble-rousing Samuel Adams) were calling for death for the Shaysites, Jefferson wrote the above words to Abigail Adams.
I thought about Jefferson and the Shaysites (and for that matter the Whiskey Rebels) today after reading about Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed. This morning CW and DD announced a new product that authoritarians everywhere will hate and fear: the Ghost Gunner. As Wired puts it:
Wilson’s latest radically libertarian project is a PC-connected milling machine he calls the Ghost Gunner. Like any computer-numerically-controlled (or CNC) mill, the one-foot-cubed black box uses a drill bit mounted on a head that moves in three dimensions to automatically carve digitally-modeled shapes into polymer, wood or aluminum. But this CNC mill, sold by Wilson’s organization known as Defense Distributed for $1,200, is designed to create one object in particular: the component of an AR-15 rifle known as its lower receiver.
Of course, the machine will do much more than that. One thing it will do is upset authoritarian control freaks everywhere. (Its very name is a jaunty answer to anti-gun politicians who’ve tried to create a panic using the term “ghost gun”.)
Wilson and Defense Distributed are leaders of a “rebellion” that never needs to fire a single shot or attack any government facility. Their work isn’t about firearms (though that, too). It’s about declaring “gun control” and the regulatory state obsolete. Without a single act of violence, they’re attacking the foundations of arbitrary authority. They’re attempting (and achieving) more than the Shaysites or Whiskey Rebels ever could have hoped.
Wilson’s goal of enabling anyone to privately fabricate an untraceable gun is part of a larger anarchist mission: To show how technology can render the entire notion of government obsolete. He’s spent the last two years developing firearms designed to be printed as easily as ink on a page, neutering attempts at gun control. “This is a way to jab at the bleeding hearts of these total statists,” Wilson says. “It’s about humiliating the power that wants to humiliate you.”
It’s no wonder that, 18 months ago, DD’s first (plastic), single-shot pistol was called “The Liberator” after the famous World War II resistance weapon. Liberation is Wilson’s real business and rebellion is his work. Neither Liberator was terribly practical, perhaps. Both spoke of huge possibilities.
Nobody should be surprised if federal or state officials crack down on Wilson and Defense Distributed as their forefathers cracked down on the Shaysites and Whiskey Rebels. Authorities can certainly harm Wilson and those who work with him.
But neither this technology nor the freedoms it enables and represents can be put down by brute force — or any other force. This rebellion has already succeeded.