A multi-year lawsuit has come to an end in a settlement that will see the U.S. State Department back away from regulating most 3-D gun files.
In May 2013, Cody Wilson, through his Austin-based company Defense Distributed, created the Liberator, a nearly entirely 3-D printed, single-shot .380 ACP pistol for which he freely shared the plans for online. In the first two days, the files were downloaded nearly 100,000 times.
Then the federal government, specifically the State Department under John Kerry, demanded the plans for the Liberator be pulled from the website until further notice under international arms regulations, citing “the United States government claims control of the information.”
Wilson, allied with the Second Amendment Foundation, challenged that logic in court and won the settlement announced this week that will see DefDist once again post 3-D gun files starting Aug. 1 via Defcad.com. “The age of the downloadable gun begins,” noted the site Wednesday.
As part of the settlement, the government acknowledges that “non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber” such as the popular AR-15 and other semi-autos, are not “military” in nature, which Alan Gottlieb with the SAF said is a huge win. “For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort,” he said in a statement.
According to Gottlieb, the State Department will move to amend the 1976-vintage International Traffic in Arms Regulations — under which they attempted to muzzle DefDist — and transfer jurisdiction over some arms exports to the Commerce Department. Further, the settlement covers a portion of the plaintiffs’ legal costs and returns $10,000 paid by DefDist to the State Department in ITAR registration fees.
The government had asserted in its defense that it did not challenge the First Amendment right of Wilson to distribute the 3-D gun files domestically, only that it took an exception to the unfettered international distribution of what they argued was information that could be used by others to produce guns overseas.
“Whatever informational value there may be in the process by which 3-D printing occurs, the CAD files are also functional, directly facilitate the manufacture of weapons, and may properly be regulated for export,” contended State Department attorneys in an April 6 filing seeking to dismiss the case. However, just three weeks later, both parties moved to put the case on hold pending a settlement.
As for Wilson, he sees the move as a nail in the coffin of modern American gun control. “I consider it a truly grand thing,” Wilson told Wired. “It will be an irrevocable part of political life that guns are downloadable, and we helped to do that.”