Starting tomorrow, Aug. 1, the company Defense Distributed will make plans available to download plans for 3D printable guns. The company was prevented from making their plans available due to a restraint order previously put in place by the State Department. Cody Wilson, the company’s founder, sued over the restraining order, eventually being joined by the Second Amendment Foundation, a large pro-gun rights group. Originally, the government sought to block distribution of the downloadable plans under policies that govern with the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), however, the State Department will soon relinquish their control of these policies to the Commerce Department.
This created a loophole in which both Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation could sue the government to lift the restraining order under the pretense that the State Department will not be regulating ITAR in the future. Under the settlement terms, they will waive prior restraint against Defense Distributed – opening the door for them to publish 3D plans for firearms online – along with agreeing to reimburse them $10,000 in registration fees and covering most of their legal costs.
The Second Amendment Foundation framed the issue in a press release on July 10 as one that was needed to protect First Amendment rights, claiming that the government was attempting to “control free speech” through their restraint order and that the ITAR regulation was a vestige of Cold-War era policies to regulate the export of arms abroad. According to watchdogs, ITAR regulations “ensure that defense-related technology does not get into the wrong hands,” which would include criminal syndicates, terrorists, and those seeking to cause harm.
Wilson, when asked by CNET if he was worried about the designs falling into the hands of people with nefarious intentions, such as criminals and terrorists, he responded by saying that he had, “no concerns regarding public access.” On their website, Defense Distributed has proudly proclaimed, “The age of the downloadable gun formally begins”. The Second Amendment Foundation’s Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb went a step further by saying, “…it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby.”
The 3D printing of firearms effectively makes standard security mitigations obsolete given the weapons will be printed with materials that can defeat most kinds of search detectors. In 2013, Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, released plans for a handgun called “The Liberator” of which all 16 component parts were made entirely of ABS plastics and could be printed with a standard Dimension SST 3D printer.
The NY Daily Post has reported that over 1,000 people have already downloaded plans for 3D printable guns including AR style rifles – prevalent in most recent mass shootings throughout the US. As a result of the policy shift, Attorneys General from eight states and Washington, DC have filed a lawsuit against President Trump’s administration to stop the online publishing of the plans. Virginia is currently not one of the eight states.
Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson has been out front on the issue and has renewed calls for a nation-wide restraining order against making the online plans available, arguing that it violates state’s rights under the 10th Amendment. In a statement released yesterday, Ferguson said, “These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history. If the Trump Administration won’t keep us safe, we will.”
President Trump, for his part, weighed in on Twitter this morning saying, “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to the NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!” According to reporting by Forbes, the NRA has been conspicuously silent on the issue and in some instances has openly mocked gun-control advocates for raising concern about how non-detectable weapons might impact public safety; you know, like preventing terrorist attacks and mass shootings.
(Sigh, will someone wake us up when this is over?)
*Cover photo by Everytown