How (and why) a London poet who never shot a gun came to lead Defense Distributed

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Enlarge / Paloma Heindorff (center) in Austin, announcing herself as the new head of Defense Distributed. (Attorneys Josh Blackman, left, and Chad Flores, right, joined her to field questions about the company's legal efforts against various states' attorneys general.) (credit: Nathan Mattise)

Prior to 2015, Paloma Heindorff had never even shot a gun. But last month, on September 25, the nearly three-year employee of Defense Distributed officially stepped into one of the most high profile firearms’ related positions in the US: director of that same 3D-printed guns activist organization.

Like most Defense Distributed employees, little is known about Heindorff even after her introductory press conference. That’s because throughout the organization’s nearly six-year-existence, only one public face has been available to onlookers—that of founder Cody Wilson. But in light of Wilson’s recent arrest and the related allegations of sexual assault against a minor, Defense Distributed felt the need to change both its leadership and public face. And through what she would later call a unanimous decision from the Defense Distributed board of directors and staff, Heindorff became the choice.

“[Cody Wilson] has been an incredibly powerful figure, but this is about an idea,” Heindorff said at the recent press conference when asked about how the organization would move on. “We believe in something, and that something isn’t a man—it’s an idea. And we’re fully committed to that idea”

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