*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout and clarifies the capabilities of the Ghost Gunner machine.
Second Amendment advocates plan to manufacture guns at the Texas Capitol during an armed rally set for the opening day of the 2015 legislative session.
Come and Take It Texas announced late Monday that it had purchased “the Ghost Gunner,” a machine that uses 3-D technology to build firearms, for use at the Jan. 13 event, where participants had already planned to carry rifles and shotguns to protest the state’s gun laws.
“Things just got a little more interesting on the 13th,” an organizer wrote on the group’s Facebook page.
The Ghost Gunner can manufacture the lower receiver of an AR-15, which still needs attached parts like a barrel and trigger to function but is legally considered a firearm. The machine, which produces designs in metal instead of plastic like a typical 3-D printer, was invented by Austin-based gun rights activist Cody Wilson. Wilson, whose nonprofit Defense Distributed sells the Ghost Gunner for about $1,500, created the world's first 3-D printable gun in 2013.
The rally, held in support of a bill filed by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, is part of a push to scrap the state’s handgun licensing requirements during the upcoming legislative session. Stickland did not immediately return a request for comment.
Murdoch Pizgatti, the president of Come and Take It Texas, said the group could not legally sell the firearms produced by the machine or lend it to others for use, but that they would be demonstrating how it worked at the rally.
"It will be us making guns for ourselves," he said.
A divide exists among gun rights supporters over the use of armed rallies to raise awareness for their cause. Some view the tactic — which has featured protesters carrying weapons such as assault rifles in city streets — as overly aggressive. The possible 3-D printing of firearms at such a rally has added another layer of controversy.
At a second rally planned for later in the month by Open Carry Texas, participants will be carrying empty holsters instead of firearms. The group's founder, CJ Grisham, said Tuesday that he had reached out to the Jan. 13 event's organizers to ask them not to use the Ghost Gunner at the Capitol.
"I don’t understand the purpose of it," Grisham said. "It seems confrontational, and really, needless. I mean, it’s the first day of the Legislature, we are this close to getting open carry passed, and now these guys want to come and manufacture a firearm on the steps of the Capitol? I just don’t get it."
Plans for firearm manufacturing at the rally also drew criticism from Moms Demand Action, a group that advocates for tighter gun control.
"If this type of extreme behavior is happening now, what will Texas look like without any kind of reasonable licensing requirement at all, which is their ultimate goal?" said Claire Elizabeth, the president of the group's Texas chapter.
Pizgatti said that Come and Take It intended to start a public conversation about laws limiting the use of tools like the Ghost Gunner and the 3-D printing of firearms.
"This is the frontline," he said. "The 3-D printing ... [is] going to be cheaper, more accessible to the average person so people with less technical skills will be able to start doing this for themselves."
He rejected any suggestion that manufacturing firearms at the Capitol rally might hurt overall support for gun rights.
"Obviously it’s not confrontational, it’s just drilling a couple holes in a piece of metal," he said. "We heard the same thing when we started open carrying our rifles ... and here we are two years later with the open carry laws sponsored, ready to go to the House and Senate and a new governor that has told the media he would sign an open carry law as soon as it reaches his desk."
Texas, which allows the public display of long guns like rifles and shotguns, legalized the concealed carrying of handguns with a license in 1995. It is one of six states that specifically prohibit the unconcealed display of handguns, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Stickland’s measure is among several from lawmakers targeting handgun restrictions, but it is the only one so far that proposes lifting licensing requirements altogether.