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Online Payment Firm Stripe Boots 3D Gun Designer Cody Wilson's Companies 353

SonicSpike writes with this news from Reason magazine: Cody Wilson, famous for making the first usable fully plastic 3D printed handgun and for his new project "Ghost Gunner" which mills metal lower receivers (the milling machine itself is of course not a weapon, and what it makes is not itself legally a weapon) for AR-15s, [informed me Monday] that his online payment processor Stripe has decided that his companies, all of them, qualify as forbidden "weapons and munitions; gunpowder and other explosives" services. This includes the Ghost Gunner and Defense Distributed.
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Online Payment Firm Stripe Boots 3D Gun Designer Cody Wilson's Companies

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  • Bitcoin... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by carlhaagen ( 1021273 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:18AM (#48309793)
    ...and other cryptographic currencies. This is one out of many reasons why we need them.
    • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:36AM (#48310007)

      Yeah! Screw those paper bills that can't be traced back and gives you anonymity, let's do something illegal with Bitcoins and its wonderful blockchain instead!

      • Not sure I understand your response. He isn't dealing with cash, he is dealing with bank transfers, which are the complete opposite of anonymous. But the problem here isn't about doing anonymous transaction - this guy is after all not trying to be incognito; quite the opposite - the problem here is that banking and comporations have control over these traditional payment solutions. In contrast, they have absolutely no control at all over Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin etc.
      • You mean the paper bills with unique serial numbers printed on each one? The ones which are regularly used by law enforcement to track the movement of money in drug and counterfeiting investigations?
  • by Puls4r ( 724907 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:20AM (#48309823)
    Because I'm 100% sure that a couple of government 'visitor' types stopped by to help Stripe make this decision.
    • I too am 100% positive things that I conjecture about with no evidence.

      • by Jawnn ( 445279 )

        I too am 100% positive things that I conjecture about with no evidence.

        We agree that it is conjecture, and therefore we must agree that the phrase "100% positive" is semantically awkward, but there is definitely ample evidence to make the conjecture credible. Or to put more appropriately, I would not be at all surprise that the government has leaned on Stripe here, and only a fool would assume otherwise in the face of that government's recent behavior.

        • Yeah, but it's not just awkward, it's antithetical to being honest. Whatever trends you might mentally extrapolate into a mental model are never going to justify 100% certainty about this sort of thing.

          I mean, let's at least acknowledge the obvious alternate case: an internal lawyer raising liability concerns.

      • Keeping in mind the news these days, it seems obvious to me that we should apply Occam's Razor to the situation. Either:

        A) the company doesn't want to do business with him anymore in case they get in trouble with the government, or
        B) the government directly told them to stop.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      And this is different from the IRS threatening audits for those that participate in multilevel marketing pyramid schemes how?
      • And this is different from the IRS threatening audits for those that participate in multilevel marketing pyramid schemes how?

        Mr Wilson wasn't trying to defraud anyone.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )
          Some of those pyramid schemes actually do have products. Amway sells actual things (and their members get audited) and there are others that sell Bell+Howell and other manufacturers' goods.

          Mind you, I wouldn't participate in those pyramid schemes as I value my time far too much to go through the hassle and hustle that someone attempting to make a living that way has to, but it's not simply selling the right to sell more rights.
          • The person getting ripped off my Amway and the like is not the person buying the products. Granted those products are overprice junk you could have gotten at walmart, but at least they get something out of it. The person getting ripped off is the salesperson. Amway nickle and dimes them into bankruptcy with classes, starter packs, yadda yadda.

  • Not cool, Stripe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shaven_llama ( 612399 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:20AM (#48309827) Homepage
    Foisting your politics on your customers, eh? Stripe was one of my favorite services - to the point I never even thought about using any other payment processor. I see that may need to change...
    • Foisting your politics on your customers, eh?

      What makes you think this is about politics and not just business?

      • A credit card processor would fire a customer for a few reasons: they are generating a lot of chargebacks, which are expensive, or they are generating a lot of bad charges, which are expensive, or they put the processor at financial risk from an upstream. All of things have mitigation that you can do before firing the customer - namely, higher fees. There comes a point where higher fees no longer suffice, and the risk is too great, and the customer has to be fired.

        There really isn't any other business rea

    • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:47AM (#48310133)

      Foisting your politics on your customers, eh? Stripe was one of my favorite services - to the point I never even thought about using any other payment processor. I see that may need to change...

      Who said it has anything to do with politics? I support gun rights and I probably would have made the same decision. The potential liability and government oversight is simply not worth it. They are making a very sane and reasonable business decision. Just because it conflicts with your political beliefs doesn't mean it is a political decision. They might even share your political beliefs but still have come to the same reasoned business decision that the downside outweighs the upside.

      Plus I should point out that you are trying to foist your politics off on Stripe. Why should they be forced to share your political beliefs? Why should they be forced to pick a side?

      • They did pick a side, he just doesn't agree.

      • by ksheff ( 2406 )

        The potential liability and government oversight is simply not worth it

        The only reason for this is because of politics.

      • Foisting your politics on your customers, eh? Stripe was one of my favorite services - to the point I never even thought about using any other payment processor. I see that may need to change...

        Who said it has anything to do with politics? I support gun rights and I probably would have made the same decision. The potential liability and government oversight is simply not worth it. They are making a very sane and reasonable business decision. Just because it conflicts with your political beliefs doesn't mean it is a political decision. They might even share your political beliefs but still have come to the same reasoned business decision that the downside outweighs the upside.

        Plus I should point out that you are trying to foist your politics off on Stripe. Why should they be forced to share your political beliefs? Why should they be forced to pick a side?

        Stop trying to be reasonable, this is /. I agree that companies often make decision based on risks to the company; decisions that are independent of politics. For example, many of the local gun shops do not allow firearms to be carried by the customer, yet they certainly support gun rights. Many gun shows do not allow people to carry as well. Even the NRA does not allow visitors to carry firearms into their building, though they may have changed that policy recently. I think it is clear that business decisi

      • The potential liability and government oversight is simply not worth it.

        What potential liability and government oversight? Cite me a single example of a payment service being named in a firearm-related lawsuit, or being a target of a BATFE investigation, for anything other than actual lawbreaking on the part of the service provider.

      • by Bob9113 ( 14996 )

        Why should [Stripe] be forced to pick a side?

        The reality is they probably were [wikipedia.org]. Agreed it is probably not Stripe's choice -- but if it is, I feel that all payment processors have a duty to not pick and choose the businesses they will cut off. Trade and the economy are too important to allow payment gateways to act as a choke point for morality enforcement. If the business is illegal, it should be shut down. If it is not, all businesses should have equal right and opportunity to engage in trade.

        Privately ope

    • by Gryle ( 933382 )
      I don't know that this is a political decision. As others have already commented, Stripe's legal team probably decided it wasn't worth the liability they could incur.

      That being said, where exactly do you draw the line between personal ethics and business ethics? I've been thinking about that a lot in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision by the Supreme Court. On the one hand, we want equal treatment for all. On the other hand, people shouldn't be required to sacrifice their personal principals just to go in
    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      I thought that given the recent court decisions it's perfectly OK for companies to foist their political and religious believes on customers and employees. It's also totally OK from a libertarian point of view - after all, a company can do whatever it wants. You don't like it? Go to their competitor.
  • This is one of the many problems that Bitcoin solves.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      This is one of the many problems that Bitcoin solves.

      How does Bitcoin force a company to do business with another company if they don't want to?

  • From the summary I see that company A has decided they don't want to do business with company B. I don't see them doing anything to prevent any other company from coming along and doing business with said company B. Isn't this how the market is supposed to work, companies are free to make their own decisions about who they want to do business with?
  • Stripes list of banned partners is indeed prolific, and likely so to make it trivial to simply refuse transaction services to anyone or anything that might shake investor confidence in the service. Cody's project could have been canned for any other number of reasons, including 'high rish businesses' as the ATF or federal government could shut him down at a moments notice. 'Regulated products and services' is the real reason he was terminated as a user because while its perfectly legitimate to manufacture
  • by Adeptus_Luminati ( 634274 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:37AM (#48310011)

    Look it up. He saw this coming over a year ago. DarkWallet = anonymity for Bitcoin.
    The guy is not stupid by a long shot. Also listen to him speak, he's a great philosopher with the wisdom of an immature teenager.

    • The guy is not stupid by a long shot. Also listen to him speak, he's a great philosopher with the wisdom of an immature teenager.

      ... but I thought you said the guy is not stupid?

      • You can be smart enough to figure out how to implement a cryptocurrency system, but not wise enough to understand the ethical arguments.

        Cf. those phone phreakers who broke into stuff for kicks, but many of them had no hostile intent.

  • Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:41AM (#48310049)

    Geeks (and other people, but us more than normal) love to analyze things, and think we're remarkably clever when we find a loophole in specific wording.

    If laws were enforced by djinn that would be a useful skill, but laws are enforced by judges who are supposed to evaluate the spirit behind a law and the intent of your actions, not merely the letter. And they hate when people get 'clever'.

    I assure you, the argument "But I'm not selling an X, I'm selling a magic box that spits out X when you press a button" will not go over well with a judge.

    • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dbc ( 135354 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:51AM (#48310155)

      Except that the laws regarding home-built firearms are very well established and have been well fleshed-out. Believe me, a lot of the corner cases have been adjudicated. Wilson is selling a milling machine. People put hunks of metal in it. A CNC program runs on it. A home-built firearm comes out. That makes Wilson's machine no different from any other CNC milling machine. Look, illiterate craftsmen in Pakistan build AK-47's from scrap metal with hand tools. Are you going to require licenses for metal files now?

      • Except this isn't a metal file, or even a generic CNC milling machine. It's explicitly built and marketed as a single-purpose tool.

        From a legal perspective it's one thing if I make BitTorrent but quite another if I make "MetallicaShare - click a button, get your favorite Metallica songs!".

        I'm not saying the device is illegal or should be banned, but he will almost certainly have the same liability as if he were selling the AR-15 lower receivers himself.

        • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dbc ( 135354 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @02:20PM (#48312077)

          No, it actually is a generic milling machine. It is *marketed* as a CNC mill with a work envelope adequate to complete a cast aluminum AR-15 lower receiver, and the CNC program to do that comes with it. The law here is very well defined. You are right in that selling a "MetallicaShare" machine is questionable, because violating the Metallica copyrights is illegal. But homebuilt firearms are completely legal as long as all applicable laws are followed. Wilson is selling a legal machine that can do many legal things other than build firearms, and can also completely legally mill a completely legal AR-15 lower receiver.

          You may not like it. You may not like the way I cook fish. That doesn't matter -- it is legal. The essence of freedom is letting other people do things you don't so much like, as long as they are doing no harm to you.

          As to Wilson having the same liability as selling AR-15 lowers, pfffft. According to FBI statistics, more people are killed every year by blunt trauma (a hammer to the head) than by rifles of all types. Go look it up, it's on line. The hardware store isn't liable for selling hammers. Hammers aren't serialized. You don't need a license to carve your own hickory handle for a hammer head. The hardware store isn't liable for selling you a carving chisel if you kill someone with a hammer using a hand-carved handle that you made with a chisel you bought from them. Murder is already a crime. Knowledge of how to build firearms is not a crime.

    • I assure you, the argument "But I'm not selling an X, I'm selling a magic box that spits out X when you press a button" will not go over well with a judge.

      In this case, the judge won't even blink. We're talking about very well-established, well-proven law here. For many years people have been selling not just machines that manufacture X, but X itself, lacking only some finishing touches, plus instructions, access to equipment, etc... You can get someone to sell you an 80% lower receiver, set it up in the drilling jig, position the drill press, turn it on, put your hand on the lever and say "pull to finish your receiver".

      There is no question whatsoever about

  • by NotSanguine ( 1917456 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @10:42AM (#48310067) Journal

    Not just for Stripe, but for most (all?) of the CC payment processors. They generally do this sort of thing for a wide array of businesses and business models. The worst part is that often they will sign you up. accept your customers' money, then freeze your account, claiming your business is either too fraud prone and/or deals in illegal/inappropriate products/services.

    Nothing to see here. Just business as usual. Move along, consumer.

  • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @11:05AM (#48310261) Homepage

    Having never been in a firearms store, let alone purchase one, what do "real" firearm shops use as a payment processor? Surely they take credit cards, don't they?

    Stripe makes it clear [stripe.com] that they don't want to participate in transactions for regulated products and services. I don't see what the problem with that is.

  • by Beer_Smurf ( 700116 ) on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @12:00PM (#48310837) Homepage
    It is totally legal to build for yourself any gun that you are allowed to own.
    If I use a CNC mill, a file and hand drill, a 3D printer or this guy's tool on an unfinished lower it doesn't matter.
    It is also totally illegal to build anything you are prohibited from owning.
    Guns are and always have been, easy to build
    The fearmongering over this subject is amazing.
  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2016q1@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday November 04, 2014 @02:09PM (#48312003) Homepage Journal

    his online payment processor Stripe has decided that his companies, all of them, qualify as forbidden "weapons and munitions; gunpowder and other explosives" services.

    This is yet another manifestation of the tactics employed by Obama's Justice Department. Unable to outlaw a particular activity (such as ammunition sales, or escort services — or even cigar-sales [townhall.com]) itself, they lean on banks and payment-processors threatening them with audits if they don't stop serving the "undesirable" merchants and services-providers. The name is "Operation Chokepoint" [wikipedia.org] and it has been in the news [theguardian.com] for a while. About time it made it to Slashdot too.

    This — "the most technologically-advanced Administration in history" — is what all the cool kids (not a few /.-ers among them) voted for in 2008 and 2012...

    Note, the DoJ is not even alleging any illegality — only "high likelihood" thereof. Nor are they threatening actual prosecution — only an audit. Unfortunately, the audits themselves — even if you end up fully clean at the end — are sufficiently painful and expensive, that banks choose to drop the few clients to avoid the experience.

    It is particularly evil, because it is not the result of a prosecution, that is used to cow the victims to comply with the government's whim, but the very process itself. Results, you see, require the Executive to argue its point in front of the skeptical Judiciary. The process, however, can be made very painful without any repercussions — DoJ don't need to prove anything to cause a person or a company as much pain as they please.

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