Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Is It Too Late to Stop 3D Printed Guns?

A federal judge ordered the Trump administration not to allow publication of blueprints to make 3D printed guns, but the order was far too late as a practical matter.

Defense Distributed first published blueprints for a printable gun in 2013, and they were downloaded 100,000 times before the federal government caught up with it. The company sued on First Amendment grounds, and the U.S. State Department settled by agreeing to let the publication go forward on Aug. 1.

Then eight states jumped in to stop it, prompting the temporary restraining order. But just like a bullet that has left the chamber, a 3D printed gun can't go back into the printer.

3D Printed Guns

Cody Wilson, a former law student and chief of Defense Distributed, is considered by some to be "the most dangerous man alive." At least, that's what the New York Times said.

To others, he is considered to be a First and Second Amendment hero. In any case, he's not the only one making 3D printed guns.

A Guy in a Garage, for example, uploaded a video of his 3D printed gun on YouTube. More than two million people have watched it.

In settling with Defense Distributed, the federal government reversed its position about the blueprints. Judge Robert Lasnik said there was no explanation "that could explain the federal government's dramatic change of position or that alter its prior analysis."

Export Controls

In 2013, the State Department had warned Wilson that publishing the blueprints violated export controls. He faced potential criminal prosecution.

But in the settlement agreement, the government relented and issued a proposed rule for the technology. The judge said the government should have given Congress 30-days' notice and secured an agreement from the Secretary of Defense.

Ars Technica, following the 3D printed gun story, said Defense Distributed released blueprints for 10 different firearms before the restraining order. The ezine also downloaded four of the blueprints.

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