Quoted: State Department sued over 3D-printed gun case

“If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident… So what if this code is a gun?”

Cody Wilson, creator of a 3D-printed gun, on suing the State Department for asking him to take down the blueprints of the gun that he had posted online.

As I wrote a couple of years ago, Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed, said it had “gone dark at the request of the Department of Defense Trade Controls,” which said that he may have violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which bars the export of military hardware and weapons technology. (But the blueprints were taken down only after hundreds of thousands of people had already downloaded them, Defense Distributed said.)

Wilson’s protestations then are the same as they are now: The 27-year-old Texas man feels he has a free-speech right to post the code online. He also has said: “I’m seeing a world where technology says you can pretty much be able to have whatever you want.”

The State Department told Wilson in 2013 that it would review whether he needed a license to disseminate the information. Now, the New York Times reports, Wilson has sued because the State Department hasn’t taken action. He wants to be able to post his files again and is seeking damages.

A lawyer for Wilson claims that the State Department left his client in legal limbo because the gun’s blueprints were posted around the time of the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut.

“After Sandy Hook, the government decided that it wanted to stop this,” Matthew Goldstein, one of Wilson’s lawyers, told the NYT. “But there were no laws that allowed them to do so within the Constitution. So they reached into their bag of tricks and suddenly pulled out ITAR.”

Speaking of ITAR, this is from Wired:

Under ITAR regulations, a piece of uncrackable crypto software like PGP was considered a military munition. PGP inventor Phil Zimmermann was even investigated by the Department of Justice for three years at the height of what has come to be known as the Crypto Wars.

“I see this as very similar to the PGP situation,” Zimmermann tells Wired. “I’m not a gun nut. I don’t own a gun. But publishing a blueprint for a gun should not be illegal.”

 

Photo: Screen grab from YouTube video of the firing of a 3D-printed gun

 

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