The anti-gun freedom deniers are out in force again. This time it’s “3D Printed guns.”
It all started some years ago when Cody Wilson of DefCad designed, built, and fired a gun, all the components of which were made in a 3D printer–and which design he made available online.
Enter the State Department. Using a provision of ITAR regulations, they made the claim that by sharing these files he was “exporting firearms without a license.”
Yep, the State Department was making the claim that sharing information–the detailed knowledge of how to make a particular firearm, a single shot firearm using a fairly weak pistol cartridge at that–was “exporting a firearm. There’s nothing special about CAD files for a 3D Printer. You could build a far more effective firearm using a CNC milling machine (a cheaper option for firearms manufacture than a 3D printer). You can build firearms more effective than this 3D printed thing using a few dollars to a few tens of dollars of parts from your local home improvement store. And it’s not that much more involved to make homemade open bolt submachine guns which are already turning up in places where there are strict gun laws.
Information and the sharing of that information–which is at the heart of First Amendment protections–was what that State Department argument was. Wilson’s counterarguments were based on that: freedom of speech and of the press, the write to say, write, and share information without government interference. After five years of wrangling, the State Department folded. They granted his first amendment argument. Yay Freedom.
Of course the anti-gun Freedom deniers couldn’t stop there. Nope, we ended up with various municipalities filing lawsuits against Defcad and Wilson. We had politicians foaming at the mouth, screaming about how this would create a new era of untraceable and undetectable guns (as if we didn’t already have the capability easier. One wag pointed out an “undetectable” AR15 type writer. He never mentioned that the only part of the rifle that would be made out of plastic is the lower receiver (and there are already plans for making AR receivers out of plastic kitchen cutting boards using hand tools) and the “furniture” (stock, pistol grip, and forward hand guard). Things like the barrel, bolt carrier group, and internal components would still be made out of metal. But then anti-gun folk have never been known for their expertise on firearms. Even President Trump has come down against these 3D printed guns. (I have noted before that Trump is not the friend of the Constitution, and particularly the 2nd Amendment, that some people hope for–he’s just not as bad as the typical Democrat.)
What these politicians and their tame judges are doing is establishing censorship of knowledge of how to make a firearm. The “CAD files” are nothing but a set of instructions–Move here. Put some material here. String material from here to here. Etc.–which, if followed leave you with parts that can be assembled into a firearm that is little more than a curiosity. They are attempting to censor information, instructions, rendered into an electronic format. There really is no way this can be construed as a blatant violation of the First Amendment. Yes, yes, I know “shouting fire in a crowded theater” and all that. However, that restriction, voiced by the late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. had several components. It did not say you could not truthfully (many people forget that the original was “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater). It did not say you could not write “fire” on a piece of paper. It did not say you could not shout fire in your own home or back yard. Nor did it permit gagging people so that they were unable to shout “fire” (that old “prior restraint” thing).
But the big point is that whether they win in the courts (in which case the First Amendment loses) or not, it’s far too late to do them any good. When the State Department issued its ruling, people who had already obtained the files put them on various file-sharing services, some outside the US and beyond the reach of US law enforcement. They’ve been shared there for years. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of copies are already available “in the wild”.
You can’t stop the signal.