United States state department looking to ban 3D Printed Guns
Cody Wilson, the inventor of the 3D printed gun is engaged in a lawsuit against the State Department claiming violation of first amendment rights.
The suit, filed by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Wilson’s firm Defense Distributed, claims prior restraint by the government over the other information related to the three-dimensional printing of arms and online publication of blueprints.
The instructions for making the Lilerator, the world’s first 3D-printed plastic gun was posted by Wilson two years ago. The State Department days later instructed him to take it off, stating that it had to carry out a formal inquiry whether he required a license for export of defense articles.
Defense Distributed and SAF are now though stating that by appealing to International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the government is violating the First Amendment right to free speech, the Second Amendment right to bear arms and the Fifth Amendment right to due process.
Alan Gottlieb, SAF Founder and Executive Vice President says “Americans have always been free to exchange information about firearms and manufacture their own arms.”
“We also have an expectation that any speech regulations be spelled out clearly, and that individuals be provided basic procedural protections if their government claims a power to silence them.”
ITAR protects the export of technical information connected to arms, which needs authorization in advance from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).
However, says SAF, when in June 2013 Defense Distributed submitted various published files connected to a machine called the Ghost Gunner to the DDTC, it was told that the machine doesn’t fall under ITAR, but that the software and files are subject to State Department jurisdiction.
Gottlieb says “Defense Distributed appears to be caught in what seems to be a bureaucratic game of merry-go-round. We’re compelled to file this action because the bureaucracy is evidently playing games and it’s time for these agencies to behave.”
It’s very difficult to see how stopping the publication of blueprints refuses anybody the right to bear arms, as after all there are many other ways to get a gun in the US. The complainants may be on solid ground with their declaration that they have been refused due process, since the whole story has been open-ended and unclear.
The center of the case is the free speech argument though. While Cody and his team asserted they are speech, the government seems to be classifying the blueprints as weapons.
Twenty years ago, the State Department was defeated in court after making an effort to use ITAR in an identical way to stop the online publication of encryption tools. The law was then changed for some time to keep ITAR safe from being ruled unconstitutional on first amendment grounds; however, this does not imply that individual cases cannot be objected.
The disagreement for considering the blueprints as weapons rather than speech is that, once it is put into a 3D printer, they finally are a gun. Though, this is to view things as an abstract idea indeed. However, in reality, they are manufacturing a gun this way that needs a fair level of skill as well as raw materials.
Defense Distributed and SAF are making attempts to get compensated for monetary loss, as well as an injunction from the court to allow them to keep CAD files and information on their website as ‘educational material’ to be downloaded for free. If they are successful, the consequences could be enormous.