Gun-rights activist Cody Wilson told the Washington Free Beacon he will be returning to Defense Distributed, a company that manufactures machines that make gun parts, after striking a plea deal in his sex-crime case.
Wilson said he was invited back by Paloma Heindorff, who took over the company after Wilson was arrested in 2018 for paying an underage girl for sex. He also said that the company would be launching a new Ghost Gunner milling machine designed to help manufacture firearm parts on a DIY and small-business scale.
Wilson's return will put him back at the center of the legal battle over homemade firearms — and just how far Second Amendment protections extend. He has for years now been at the center of several lawsuits seeking to curtail the distribution of firearms blueprints online.
His new brainchild will produce finished gun parts for popular firearms like the AR-15 and 1911 using basic templates and raw materials but will work faster than previous models — and manufacture steel AK-47 parts as well.
"It's got twice the build volume," Wilson told the Free Beacon in an interview. "It supports the AK-47 now. It has a variable frequency drive … It's a totally different animal."
Preorders for the Ghost Gunner 3 began on Wednesday.
Wilson described it as the ideal iteration of the mini-CNC machine. "It took us five years to figure it all out," he said. "But, you know, if we had like an unlimited time and budget to design this machine, this is what this would look like. Only like six parts, I think, are carried over from the previous generation. It's completely rebuilt."
The company hopes to begin shipping the new machines by January.
Wilson and Defense Distributed have been at the center of a series of federal lawsuits since Wilson's invention of a firearm design made mostly of 3D-printed material, as well as his subsequent publishing of that and other firearm designs on the internet. He has been a leader in the battle to maintain the right to share gun designs over the Internet.
Amid this legal controversy, Wilson was accused of paying $500 to a girl under the age of 17 for sex through a website in August 2018.
In September 2019, the judge in Wilson's case accepted a plea deal which reduced the charge to injury to a child. Under the plea deal, first published by Ars Technica, Wilson was sentenced to no prison time but must register as a sex offender, attend sex offender therapy, pay a $1,200 fine, and refrain from contacting the victim, among other conditions.
The victim's mother had harsh words for Wilson at the hearing where the plea deal was accepted.
"Our daily life was shattered, but she never wavered from the truth," she said in a statement read in court. "Once she knew who you are and what you did, she never wavered. She remembers the gun you put in her hands and the feeling of your skin. But you ran, despite the publicity you have always been seeking from your fans and followers, you ran. You hid in a foreign airport and only came back because you were made to. She stood up in a public forum despite talk of conspiracies and setups."
Asked to respond to the statement, Wilson told the Free Beacon, "If it had been so severe, I would have been prosecuted."
Wilson and his legal defense have said he did not know the girl's age when he paid her for sex.
"Obviously I regret it happening," Wilson said. "It was a massive distraction. But, in order to feel guilty, you have to have a criminal mind. You have to know you were committing a crime."
Wilson insisted that despite laws that prohibit felons and others from owning firearms and previous reports to the contrary, he would still be able to possess them.
"I'm definitely not a prohibited person," he said. "I haven't taken a conviction. There's no felony record. Travis County doesn't treat me as having lost my voting or my firearms rights."
"Even if I wasn't allowed to own firearms, I could still run this company," he added. "This company deals with software and components that aren't firearms."
Critics have long decried the Ghost Gunner, 3D printing of gun parts, and home-built firearms as ways for criminals to circumvent gun laws, though possessing firearms remains illegal for people prohibited from owning firearms regardless of whether the guns were home-built.
Asked why he felt he was the right person to lead Defense Distributed through its legal battles after pleading guilty to the crime, Wilson said a moral case wasn't necessary for him to participate in the cause he has long embraced, adding that he may take a less public role going forward.
"It just has been my cause," Wilson said. "I don't know how public I need to be anymore. If it hampers the cause like I thought it would last year, I'd definitely depart. But I've been invited to return and, if our people still want me to be there, I'm definitely going to be there."
Wilson said Heindorff would remain in a leadership role, and he would not have as absolute a leadership role as he did before leaving the company. He also said the company would use the money it makes from the new Ghost Gunner to pursue its political and legal objectives, including the ongoing suits against it.
He said the company's new machine comes at a key moment since Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke has promised to send police to confiscate firearms.
"Beto is all about how we're going to take your AR and AK," Wilson said. "Well, this is a machine that does both."