Department of Justice Settlement Opens the Door for 3D Printed Guns
The debate over gun control in America has been raging for decades, with no end in sight. While the ability to bear arms is a constitutional right protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution, gun control advocates argue that oversight and access to firearms is too lax, leading to mass shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School and countless others like it. Thanks to technology, access to firearms may soon be possible at the press of a button, as a recent settlement by the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened the door for 3D printed guns.
Back in 2012, gun rights activist and self-professed “crypto-anarchist” Cody Wilson Founded Defense Distributed, an organization dedicated to designing and releasing files for a gun that could be constructed using consumer 3D printers. In 2013, Wilson successfully test fired his prototype, a plastic 3D printed gun called the “Liberator,” shortly before releasing the blueprints for the weapon online via his website.
Word quickly spread online over the following days, and his firearm was downloaded more than 100,000 times. Federal authorities were quick to take notice and ordered Wilson to take down the files, stating that he was potentially in violation of firearm export control laws.
Wilson complied with the order and took down his website, but vowed to fight the order in court. The ensuing legal battle carried on for three years. Wilson’s defense argued that not allowing him to publish his 3D printed guns online violated both his Second Amendment right to bear arms as well as his First Amendment rights to freely share information.
In May 2018, the DOJ quietly decided to settle the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, the government agreed to alter its export rules on military firearms below .50 caliber, allowing Wilson and presumably others to distribute the files for 3D printed guns online.
“I consider it a truly grand thing,” Wilson said in an interview with Wired Magazine. “It will be an irrevocable part of political life that guns are downloadable, and we helped to do that.”
Wilson plans to relaunch his website as an online repository for firearm files that can be constructed using commercial 3D printers. Wilson’s website will host user-submitted files, with the ultimate goal being a “user-generated database of practically any firearm imaginable.”
In a world where guns and ammunition are as easy to download as an MP3, it’s not hard to see why gun control advocates are worried. Without regulations like serial numbers or registration records, the ability to mass produce virtually untraceable 3D printed guns is now a reality.