Downloading 3-D printed guns will be legalized starting next month. Defense Distributed, a non-profit defense firm, will offer the blueprints for download starting Aug. 1. The move ends a three-year legal battle led by gun-rights activists against the State Department.
In 2013, Cody Wilson and his nonprofit, Defense Distributed, posted plans for a 3-D printed handgun called “The Liberator” on the internet. Nearly the entire pistol could be created on a 3D printer using ABS plastic, the same material used to make Lego bricks. The single-shot pistol only required a metal firing pin to become operational.
Federal officials with the State Department ordered Wilson to remove the plans, saying that they could be in violation of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The regulations oversee the exports of defense materials, data and services. While Wilson complied with the order at the time, more than 100,000 copies of the blueprints had already been downloaded. Wilson sued the government over the matter in 2015.
Wilson’s settlement with the government says that he can publish the plans in any form and exempts them from export restrictions. The State Department also agreed to pay almost $40,000 of Wilson’s legal fees. In a statement, the agency wrote, “This was a voluntary settlement entered into following negotiations between the Department of State and the plaintiffs. The court did not rule in favor of the plaintiffs in this case. In other contexts, courts have upheld ITAR controls on technical data.”
Second Amendment Foundation Founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb hailed the settlement as a victory for free speech and a blow to gun prohibition. Gun control advocates expressed anger at the decision to settle the case under those terms. Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, wrote in an emailed statement, “Making it easier for dangerous people to get guns is reckless and stupid, and this is going to make Americans less safe.”