3D Printer Gun Ban : Too Little, Too Late?

Last week, Cody Wilson, founder of non-profit group Defense Distributed, fired the first-ever 3D printed gun.  The 3D gun was made with a Dimension SST printer from 3D printing company Stratasys and is mostly made out of ABS plastic with the exception of a nail that serves as the firing pin, and a six ounce chunk of steel into the body to make it detectable by metal detectors in order to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act.

Defense Distributed attained a federal firearms license back in March so when it released the 3D-printable CAD files for “the Liberator,” everything ws legal, right?  Wrong! According to the State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance, the 3D blueprint made available for download may be in violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, which regulates the export of firearms.

The department sent a letter to Wilson to take down the downloadable 3D file.

“Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final [commodity jurisdiction] determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled,” reads the letter, referring to a list of ten CAD files hosted on Defcad that include the 3D-printable gun, silencers, sights and other pieces.

“This means that all data should be removed from public access immediately. Defense Distributed should review the remainder of the data made public on its website to determine whether any other data may be similarly controlled and proceed according to ITAR requirements.”

Too little, too late?


But the order may have come too late.  Though the files in question have already been removed from Defense Distributed’s site, the file, hosted by Mega, has already been downloaded over 100,000 times just two-days after its release, and other file sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay still have the files ready for download.

Still, Wilson sees this as just a minor setback for his hopes of providing access to anyone who wants a gun.  In Wilson’s mind, everyone has the right to have a gun, and this is his way of making that happen.  He also sees the Department’s ITAR argument invalid since “Defense Distributed is excluded from the ITAR regulations under an exemption for non-profit public domain releases of technical files designed to create a safe harbor for research and other public interest activities. That exemption, he says, would require Defense Distributed’s files to be stored in a library or sold in a bookstore.”

New York representative Steve Israel backs this ban on 3D gun designs and is pushing for a new gun control bill that encompasses the 3D gun designs as wells 3D-printed ammo attachments.  But some are concerned that this is the beginning of more restrictions regarding 3D blueprints, as well as owning a 3D printer.  Israel argues that this will not be the case, he just wants to limit access to firearms, especially for unstable individuals.