Gun-Grabbers Vs. Cody Wilson’s 3D-Printed Guns
A new front has opened in the national debate over firearms after the State Department settled with Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed over his plans to distribute files to produce 3D-printed firearms online. In the hysteria that has ensured, media figures and anti-gun politicians have once again displayed their ignorance of current firearm technology and laws, as well as a disregard for both the First and Second Amendment rights of the American people. In the process, Cody Wilson, a 30-year-old crypto-anarchist, has overnight become one of the most significant activists for the right to bear arms and freedom of speech.
This controversy originated in 2013 when Wilson released the blueprints for his 3D-printed, single-shot “Liberator” pistol online through Defense Distributed’s website DEFCAD. The State Department quickly demanded that Wilson remove the files for violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. In 2015, Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation filed suit against the State Department on First Amendment grounds. The out of court settlement which was reached in June would have allowed Defense Distributed to re-launch the website DEFCAD.org on August 1st.
In response, eight states and the District of Columbia joined in a lawsuit in Seattle federal court to prevent the website from going live. On Tuesday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking DEFCAD from releasing the files online. However, blueprints for nine models of 3D-printed guns had already been posted on the Defense Distributed website, with over 10,000 files being downloaded before they were removed.
Critics of Wilson claim that the proliferation of untraceable “ghost guns” will fuel the country’s non-existent gun crisis and allow felons or the mentally ill to obtain plastic firearms capable of defeating metal detectors. Ignored in this narrative is the high cost of obtaining 3D-printers and quality materials capable of withstanding the force of firing multiple rounds. Also ignored is the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act, requiring at least 3.7-ounces of steel in a firearm made or otherwise imported into the country, much less the fact that any reliable, repeating firearm will include multiple metal components. Manufacturing a 3D-printed firearm is no easier, and likely more expensive than manufacturing a firearm from an 80% receiver. Additionally, all existing laws regarding the sale and possession of a firearm will apply to 3D-printed firearms. Finally, with the thousands of downloads that have already taken place, it is too late for an injunction on DEFCAD to have any meaningful effect in preventing the distribution of these files. Wilson stating, “It’s public domain information now. It’s irrevocable. No one can take it back.”
Wilson and his legal team have based their defense primarily on free speech grounds comparing his sharing of files to the information in a public library. In 2015 he stated, “If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident.” In the wake of the settlement with the State Department, Wilson has been very adamant regarding his First and Second Amendment convictions, telling CBS on Wednesday, “You can adjust your politics to this reality. You will not ask me to adjust mine.” Wilson’s diehard defense of his convictions has propelled him to the forefront of efforts to defend freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. However, this position has drawn the ire of gun control activists with over 20 states petitioning the federal government to reverse its settlement with Defense Distributed. Additionally, three bills have been introduced to Congress, regulating 3D-printed firearms.
Like much of the debate around firearms, misinformation and misplaced hysteria abound. Even President Trump weighed in via Twitter saying, “I am looking into 3D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!” However, like so much in our politics, the reality of 3D-printed firearms is much more nuanced than a sound-bite or tweet allow for. What is not nuanced are the fundamental rights which Cody Wilson is acting in defense of. By casting this as a First Amendment issue Wilson has set the stage to not only transform the gun debate but also to protect the free exchange of information in the process.
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