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U.S. State Department moves to block 3D-printed gun plans online

Lucas Mearian | July 8, 2015
U.S. State Department announced new proposed rules that would effectively make it illegal to post blueprints for 3D-printed guns online.

Cody Wilson 3D printed gun
Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, holds "The Liberator" 3D-printed handgun he designed.  Credit: Defense Distributed

U.S. State Department announced new proposed rules that would effectively make it illegal to post blueprints for 3D-printed guns online.

The revisions to the International Traffic in Arms rules relate to the electronic transmission of technical data.

A request for comment from the State Department was not returned at the time of this article's posting.

The new rules are allegedly in response to blueprints of 3D-printed guns posted online over the past few years, the most infamous of which were for "The Liberator" handgun, created by Cody Wilson and his company Defense Distributed.

Wilson demonstrated how the Liberator 3D-printed gun can fire multiple .380 caliber rounds (a .380 round is basically a short 9mm bullet).

Defense Distributed's site also offered blueprints for nine other 3D-printable firearms components, including a 30-round magazine and the lower receiver for an AR-15 rifle, the semi-automatic civilian model of the U.S. military's M16 automatic assault rifle.

Cody describes Defense Distributed as "a nonprofit digital publisher and 3D Printing R&D firm that has developed some of the world's first and most popular 3D Printable gun components."

Two years ago, the State Department ordered Wilson to remove the online plans he had posted. Those plans had been downloaded more than 100,000 times in only two days.

Wilson complied with the State Department's request, but in interviews he always maintained that he would someday fight what he called "prior restraint" by the government.

Wilson bided his time until last month when he filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming the take-down order violated his rights under the First, Second and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

In an interview with Computerworld a year ago, Cody said the issue is less about gun rights and more about the "implications of open source and the digital age."

"Freedom is scary," Wilson said. "If you want to talk about rights, what does it mean to respect a civil liberty or civil right? Well, it means you understand there are social costs in having that right; that's why it deserves protection in the first place."

In an interview with Fox News last week, Wilson called the new rules proposal "a direct action on behalf of the Obama administration to control public speech about guns on the Internet."

In a notice posted in the Federal Register on Friday, the State Department stated that changes are being made to the International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) regulations. The new rules would restrict what information can be exported out of the U.S. One of those restrictions targets posting schematics for 3D-printed gun parts online.


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