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RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Does the State Department have the right to prevent anyone selling designs for 3D printed firearms?

Asked by RealEyesRealizeRealLies (30938points) July 29th, 2013

Interesting 8min documentary here illustrating two separate firearms enthusiasts efforts to make their gun designs available on the web. They are designed so that anyone can print a firearm at home with their very own 3D printer.

At 3:24 on the video, one of the players, Defense Distributed (love that name) posts a banner stating the following:
“Days after uploading plans for the Liberator, Defense Distributed pulled all files at the request of the State Department”.

But the scary part… If you stop the video at 3:24, and read the last line of copy above the State Department emblem… it reads:
“the United States government claims control of the information”.

That is scary to me. May I remind you the words of Robert A Heinlein warned us of:
“When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.”
Oddly, at 7:15 on the video, the creator of Defense Distributed questions nearly the same point:
“Some people can have this information. Some people can’t. That’s interesting. Why is that so?”

That’s a valid observation and excellent question. I’d like to know the answers to that question too.

The other player in the video has designed another small arms pistol. Giving his design away for free, he says it’s too late, as already thousands of downloads have occurred. He is confident that others will take his design and improve upon it. He encourages it.

Reality check. We have the right to bear arms. Neither of these two fellas seem lunatic to me, but rather more concerned with enabling citizens to protect American liberties while we still can.

Whether you agree or disagree with gun control is NOT THE QUESTION HERE.

The question here is simply, does the State Department have the right to prevent anyone selling designs for 3D printed firearms?

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12 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Now more in depth interviews with Cody Wilson, creator of Defense Distributed. He explains in depth how the the Government shakedown took place. Cody is a law student. He’s exploring the possibility of exemptions. He may be facing criminal prosecution.



There is an argument that we should not allow anyone to make it easier for terrorists to produce weapons. I propose that terrorists don’t have any shortage of gun designs at their disposal already. I bet they are investing in 3D printers too. Chances are, that Gov intervention will result in disarming US Citizens, while terrorists print their little hearts out.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Cody interviewed by Glenn Beck Here.

zenvelo's avatar

They are authorized by Congress to keep certain technologies from being exported. Posting designs on the internet is a way around that, so they have the authority to have it taken down.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@zenvelo At 3:20 on the Glenn Beck video, you’ll discover what kind of “technology” is being prevented.

Cody designed his own custom magazine. It is his proprietary design. The rest of the gun is a standard AR-15 which has been in production world wide since 1958. There is literally no one we could export the design to abroad that doesn’t already have it for decades now.

All this does is keep the technology from Americans.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Given the current state of gun laws in the United States, the State Department does not seem to have the right to demand that this information be taken down. It has every right to make the request, of course, but no one has a duty to honor that request. Then again, it is entirely possible that the request came with some implication that the DOJ would be very interested in anyone who refused to comply. That would certainly be illegal.

ragingloli's avatar

What about bomb building manuals? Same thing.

tomathon's avatar

Absolutely not. It would be a violation of the first amendment which is why they only requested it be taken down.

However, if someone actually prints the gun, then they’re breaking the law. See Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988

jerv's avatar

The obvious counter to that is, “When has legality really mattered, especially to the government?”.

In a semi-related vein, cryptographic software with a key of >40 bits was under the same restrictions as nuclear munitions, so the software could not be exported…. but if the source code was printed in hardcopy and sent abroad as a book, it was totally protected by the First Amendment. My point is that the law needs not make sense either.

@tomathon There is a way to print a gun legally. Long story short, you print one part, then insert 6 ounces of metal into it, enough to make it set off a metal detector. After that, it’s perfectly legal to print the rest of the parts to make a complete gun as it’s no longer undetectable. It’s only those that omit the metal insertion step that are breaking the law.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I’m wondering where Cody got his design for the AR frame in the first place. Youtube is filled with how to print your own gun videos.

Good point @ragingloli. I’m of the mind that everything should be legal.

Interesting about the crytography @jerv.

GoldieAV16's avatar

”“Exports of non-automatic and semi-automatic firearms up to 50 caliber are controlled under the U.S. munitions list,” he said. “In accordance with the Arms Export Control Act, any person who engages in the U.S. in the business of manufacturing or exporting defense articles, furnishing defense services, or engages in arms brokering covered by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), is required to register with the state department.”

Read more:

So I would say that since he did not register his plans with the State Department as required by law, they are acting within their authority in removing the plans.

The part that you find “so scary”? You left off the first part of the statement: “Until further notice.” As in perhaps until they follow the law?

CWOTUS's avatar

In general response to your question, “the government” does not have rights. Citizens have rights, which are intended / supposed to be “checks” on government power. But as anyone with a brain knows, “the Constitution is not self-enforcing”.

Since “information” is not classified as “a firearm” or “munitions”, and 3D printing files are not “manufacturing or exporting defense articles… services, or… brokering”, then it seems that the government has acted outside of its legal authority, probably with a hope that the law will catch up with the reality of 3D printing.

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