Firm Finds Way Around Export Restrictions On Gun Files

When Cody Wilson first released his 3D printer files for gun builds to the world, it sparked plenty of outrage. The problem was, the files weren’t actually illegal. There were already laws in place as to who could build a gun. Further, all the complete firearms required sufficient metal to comply with federal requirements.

So the approach they took was to hit him over export restrictions. Guns and similar equipment can’t be exported without State Department approval and during the Obama administration, that wasn’t going to happen.

While the Trump administration reversed that ruling, a number of attorney generals filed a lawsuit to block the move. In short, Wilson was back to square one.

However, it seems he may have found a way around the restrictions.

A technology company made thousands of digital-gun files publicly available, including blueprints that will enable users to make plastic guns with three-dimensional printers, reports the Wall Street Journal. Cody Wilson of Defcad has waged a long legal battle against the federal government over the right to share 3-D-gun-related materials. This was the third time he has released such files, but the first time he abided by U.S. foreign export controls, using what he said are digital verification tools to ensure legal file downloads. Wilson said he believed his release of the files would be “impervious” to legal challenge and would help normalize the distribution of such material for easy download. Wilson is offering access for an annual $50 fee, calling his service “Netflix for 3-D guns.”

Of course, the usual suspects are still upset over it, which is hardly surprising. Gun control groups cite the fact that such weapons can’t be controlled as evidence Wilson and his company shouldn’t be allowed to provide the files at all.

There are a number of problems with this argument. First is that as noted previously, the law already restricts criminals from building firearms. They ignore it all the time, of course, but since they also ignore the prohibition against them having guns at all, it’s probably safe to say that making it difficult or impossible for law-abiding citizens to build them probably won’t have much of an impact.

Additionally, the courts have generally found that computer code is a matter of free speech. While images, video, and audio files are slightly different, the written code falls under the First Amendment. That makes this not just a Second Amendment issue, but a first Amendment one as well. Especially since having the files doesn’t mean you’re going to use them.

Believe me, I’ve got them and I’m not really planning to use them anytime soon.

Regardless, though, there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done. While the State Department will still look at Wilson’s latest effort, it’s entirely likely they’ll be forced to give this a pass.

That will likely spark still more lawsuits, of course, but in this day and age, what’s new about that?

In the meantime, though, DefCad and Wilson are back poking the gun controllers in the eye and working to defeat gun control once and forever. After all, gun control does you no good if you can’t actually control who gets guns. Considering the number of people who don’t want anyone to have anything, that matters.