Should blueprints for 3-D printable guns be protected as free speech?

“This week marks the two-year anniversary since Cody Wilson, the inventor of the world’s first 3-D printable gun, received a letter from the State Department demanding that he remove the blueprints for his plastic-printed firearm from the internet. The alternative: face possible prosecution for violating regulations that forbid the international export of unapproved arms,” writes Andy Greenberg for Wired.

Now Wilson is challenging that letter. And in doing so, he’s picking a fight that could pit proponents of gun control and defenders of free speech against each other in an age when the line between a lethal weapon and a collection of bits is blurrier than ever before.

Wilson’s gun manufacturing advocacy group Defense Distributed, along with the gun rights group the Second Amendment Foundation, on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the State Department and several of its officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry. In their complaint, they claim that a State Department agency called the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) violated their first amendment right to free speech by telling Defense Distributed that it couldn’t publish a 3-D printable file for its one-shot plastic pistol known as the Liberator, along with a collection of other printable gun parts, on its website.

Today’s Question: Should blueprints for 3-D printable guns be protected as free speech?

  • Gary F

    When 3D guns are outlawed, then only the outlaws will have 3D guns. The genie is out of the bottle.

    3D printers will challenge more than just gun laws, they will challenge patent laws too.

    The long arm of government will never be able to control the 3D printer world.

  • PaulJ

    Are blue prints for unapproved weapons protected as free speech?

    • Gary F

      I presume manufacturers of firearms have patent and copyright protection on most of their products.

      You can buy an “80%” lower for an AR15. It has no serial number and the BAFTE has said that it isn’t a “gun” so it doesn’t need a serial number. You need a quality commercial milling machine to finish the product out and buy the rest of the parts to build your own AR seeing they all meet military specs and parts are interchangeable. This has been going on for years.

      • ABeagleKnots

        No, most gun products are not patented, and copyright is irrelevant because literal copying of ornamental features is rarely the issue.

    • Pearly

      Yep. For reference only.

  • Bill

    Gary F. has it right. Now anyone can make anything they want with 3D printers. All you have to do is take a course in Solidworks and you can build anything. It doesn’t matter about downloads or uploads, YOU CAN do it yourself. Its easy.
    The law doesn’t matter anymore when it comes to technology, WE THE PEOPLE will take charge if WE want to, when we will, NOT if we will.
    The cats out of the bag, no turning back now. If you want it you got it. Government control is a thing of the past. Good thing. Freedom at last, freedom at last, Lord almighty freedom at last.

  • KTN

    The gun nuts are showing their limited understanding of the 1st A (imagine that, they don’t understand). The government can most certainly enact laws around limiting the printing of these weapons, all without infringing on anybody’s rights. Filing a law suit is not the same as winning one, and even if this wind’s it’s way through the appellate process will take years, so they will have to be content with their wet dreams until the Court rules otherwise.

    • Rodney

      For over two hundred years American have legally made their own firearms.

  • lindblomeagles

    KTN is correct and Second Amendment supporters SHOULD, BUT DON’T, know that. You cannot say “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” then turn right back around and say, “Guns make statements.” If an inanimate object can’t kill people, it also can’t make statements requiring free speech protection. Newspapers, books, magazines, flags, and journals are extremely different, because SOME ONE actually IS MAKING A
    STATEMENT. Blueprints are what we think they are, an instructional guide drawn up by a company or inventor to make a product IT INTENDS TO SELL! The FBI didn’t say this guy couldn’t never, ever email his blueprints. What they said was “FOLLOW THE LAW,” acquire permission from the U.S. government to sell this gun, including, the blueprints to make it.

    • ABeagleKnots

      “The LAW” will put this guy in prison if he puts his blueprints on the internet. You still happy with that?

  • Pearly

    I will stick with my VMC for building guns out of metal, thank you.

  • MarissaMD

    No one cares….just as the media barring Fox, spent 39 minutes in April on the ISIS war and the Texas terrorist attacks while they spent 278 minutes covering Baltimore and accusing all cops of being corrupt..so, does anyone think this small issue of 3D printing matters? The media doesn’t even cover Hillary shredding documents to cover her Benghazi scandal and her hundreds of millions accpeted from foreign countries that allow women an gays to be killed for adultery_ wow. Time to ask the media why they aren’t doing their job????

  • ABeagleKnots

    Be clear on this: Out government is saying that he deserves to go to prison for “exporting arms” when he is merely posting blueprints on the internet. And those arms exports laws are to keep high tech military weapons and the secrets behind them out of the hands of the enemy. This is a dumb, primitive gun, far inferior to the good guns any enemy with a file and a drill can inexpensively make. Keep in mind that Bill Clinton gave major missile secrets to the Chinese, and Hillary appears to have sold access to let the Russians buy uranium. (Did you know that the cost to get the free plans approved for export by the State Department is a $3000 annual license fee?)

    • Gordon near Two Harbors

      …and George W Bush let the North Koreans get nuclear weapons.

      • ABeagleKnots

        Still changing the subject to Bush when you don’t have a response, even after all these years?

        • Gordon near Two Harbors

          My response was to the part of your statement that drifted off of the original topic.

          • John Dilligaf

            It wasn’t off topic. If you read the article, they want to charge him with international export of unapproved arms. Seems to me uranium and missile secrets would also be unapproved arms, only on a much grander scale.

          • ABeagleKnots

            What kind of idiot thinks that foreigners don’t have access to gun plans they can 3D print, even without the help of one American?

  • Gary F

    Has the BTAFE declared that these 3-D printer guns need a serial number and the makers need to be at a minimum a FFL?

    • Pearly

      Duno for sure but at a min. I would guess a manufacturers license to make. An FFL to sell.
      A huge pile of paper work. And pay a tax

      https://www.atf.gov/firearms/faq/manufacturers.html

    • Rodney

      It is perfectly legal to manufacture your own firearm at home without a serial number or license. Americans have been doing this for centuries.

      • Ulysses Tennyson

        Shoot, any fool can do that. What takes real gumption is manufacturing your own pistol in prison out of a bar of soap.

  • John Dilligaf

    The 1st Amendment’s a tricky thing. The reason radar detectors were ruled to be legal in the United States is because of the 1st Amendment. It is legal to receive any broadcast radio signal – i.e. the signal output from the radar gun.

    Now, the radar signal isn’t speech, and the 3D blueprint isn’t either, but the radar signal was being received and the blueprint is being sent via email or posted to a website.

    I’d never trust a 3D printed plastic barrel to contain the pressures generated by the rapid expansion of ignited gunpowder. I would consider an AR-15 with a 3D printed lower receiver, with a separately purchased upper and trigger kit. However, I believe that would violate current law, because the part of the weapon classified as a firearm is the lower receiver, and that must be serialized and purchased through a FFL.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

  • Ulysses Tennyson

    My opinion is that it is impossible to shoot someone with a blueprint. You would have to print it out, roll it up and use it as a blowgun. Or perhaps give the fellow (or Heaven forfend, the lass) a good swat across the chops.

    • Ulysses Tennyson

      And I think that guy should tuck his shirt in before he hurts someone. And if he can’t do that he should do it afterwards. But for god’s sake, guy, don’t stick that silly pistol there. It might actually be effective at such a close range.

      • Ulysses Tennyson

        I’ve seen a bottle of window-cleaner that looked more lethal than that thing. And more accurate.

  • Rodney

    The authorities were supposed to have made their ruling within 60 days. For two years the authorities kept Mr. Wilson waiting. I hope he wins big time.

  • Gary F

    Free speech defenders are way, way too busy fighting “Micro aggression”, “free speech zones”, and “trigger warnings” on college campuses!

  • Jasper

    What is really sad is that Cody is so willing and determined to keep this information available to anyone. How about exercising some common sense and realizing that “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

    • Gary F

      I bet someone in North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, or the Ukraine suffering under a repressive government would like the opportunity to defend themselves.

  • Haniya Ahmad

    My response was to the part of your statement that drifted off of the original topic. love quotes