How Sharing Blueprints for 3D-Printed Guns Became Legal?

Posted by Veronica Arino on Jul 5th 2019

How the first amendment is protecting the second amendment

Cody Wilson is an American crypto-anarchist, free-market anarchist, and gun-rights activist. He is best known as a founder and former director of Defense Distributed, a non-profit organization that develops and publishes open source gun designs, so-called "wiki weapons", suitable for 3D printing and digital manufacture. He is a co-founder of the Dark Wallet, a bitcoin storage technology.

In May 2013, Wilson successfully test-fired a pistol called "the Liberator" that reportedly was made using a Stratasys Dimension series 3D printer purchased on eBay. After test firing, Wilson released the blueprints of the gun's design online through a Defense Distributed website and it was downloaded over 100,000 times in 48 hours. Under the order of then President Barack Obama, the State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance demanded that Wilson remove the files, threatening prosecution for violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

On May 6, 2015, Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit against the State Department claiming a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech. Cody Wilson stated that he wasn’t facilitating firearm exports but instead he was just posting code which is something that would be protected by the First Amendment.

On June 29, 2018, the case was quietly settled before the issue could be ruled upon. In the settlement, the government agreed to waive its prior restraint against Wilson, thus allowing him and others to freely publish blueprints for weapons on the internet.

On the other hand, while Cody Wilson and other gun enthusiasts see this as a victory, gun control advocates see it as a loss. Oddly enough though, some of the most outspoken activist for gun control are also advocates of free speech. This raises the question of responsibility in dissecting the bill of rights. Two amendments that are at the foundation of our government can not and should not be separated for the convenience of politics. Free speech is a right of the American people. Along with the right to bear arms, consent to quarter soldiers, right against unreasonable search and seizures, and the rest of amendments 5-10.

Avery Gardner, co-president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said her organization’s first plan of action is to uncover the mysteries of the settlement. They filed a Freedom of Information Act to attain documents pertaining to how the government decided on the settlement. Gardner even suggested that the NRA or the National Shooting Sports Foundation may have been involved. But the National Shooting Sports Foundation denied the said accusation and stated that they had no discussion or communication with the State Department about the settlement. According to the U.S Department of State spokesperson, the settlement was voluntarily entered into between the plaintiffs and the State Department.

Gardner argues that having an open access to sensitive data such as a gun blueprint opens the door for people to just print the 3D design and then own a gun. That then eliminates the option for a background check for the printed gun owner. That could be very dangerous if it goes to the wrong hands.

Another concern she raised was since the gun ownership did not go through the background check and registration, the gun will largely be untraceable. They won’t have serial numbers on them. So when the gun is recovered at crime scenes the authorities will not be able to trace it back to its original owner.

Crime statistics show us that the majority of violent crimes involving firearms involve firearms that were illegally obtained in the first place. This reinforces the theory that gun control will never work. Gun control will only disarm law abiding citizens while criminals will continue to obtain illegal guns the way they do now.

Cody Wilson believes Defense Distributed and the proliferation of 3D-printed gun blueprints is a public good. Even though the blueprint for the Liberator was initially taken down, it is still available on the dark web and other torrenting websites for anyone to find. The only difference is now it has a legal stamp of approval.To this day, you can go to Wilson’s website and download blueprints for a variety of firearms but of course, as it has gone through a settlement with the State Department, there are still some restrictions.

The viability of plastic printed guns still have yet to be proven. I have seen many articles and videos showing the danger of firing a live round from a plastic gun. Many of these videos were done in test environments and if they would have been fired by a person, that person would have been seriously injured or dismembered.