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Defense Distributed Sues State Department Over 3-D Gun Censorship 312

SonicSpike writes with word that Cody Wilson, whose projects to create (and disseminate the plans for) printable guns have fascinated some and horrified others, is not going to quietly comply with the U.S. State Deparment's demand that he remove such plans from the internet. Wilson, says Wired, is picking a fight that could pit proponents of gun control and defenders of free speech against each other in an age when the line between a lethal weapon and a collection of bits is blurrier than ever before. Wilson's gun manufacturing advocacy group Defense Distributed, along with the gun rights group the Second Amendment Foundation, on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the State Department and several of its officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry. In their complaint, they claim that a State Department agency called the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) violated their first amendment right to free speech by telling Defense Distributed that it couldn't publish a 3-D printable file for its one-shot plastic pistol known as the Liberator, along with a collection of other printable gun parts, on its website.
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Defense Distributed Sues State Department Over 3-D Gun Censorship

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  • Bureaucrats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rfengr ( 910026 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @01:50PM (#49640493)
    Still amazes me that bureaucrats think things can be "removed from the internet". Good for DD.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "First they came for the Russians' memes, and I did not speak out--

      because I was not a Russian.

      Then they came for the 3-D printable guns, and I did not speak out--

      because I did not own a 3-D printer.

      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

      -Abraham Lincoln

  • Standard Law (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2015 @01:57PM (#49640581)

    My understanding of the law, when it comes to gun manufacturing, is that an individual can make a gun themselves, but once they try to sell it (or in this case give it away, selling their "idea" if you will), then it is illegal without going ahead with all the legal paper work and such that other more traditional manufacturers have to deal with.

    From what I can tell, they either want to criminalize the plans for the guns (which I think is not feasible) or they want to make 3D printers regulated (and costly) as high end printers that could potentially forge money. I can't see any "win" for them aside from publicity and very likely getting a lot of hate if they win.

    • Re:Standard Law (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @02:06PM (#49640701)

      For good or bad, 3D printing is the end of government controls over physical items, unless they require some exotic material, like plutonium.

      They'll obviously try to control them, as the Soviets tried to control typewriters, but that will only be a temporary speed-bump. Widespread availability of the technology is essential if we're ever going to get off this planet.

    • Re:Standard Law (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aaron4801 ( 3007881 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @04:05PM (#49641819)
      The Anarchist's Cookbook is all over the internet, and home-made bombs have killed many, many times more people than a plastic gun ever will. Despite decades of attempted censorship, it's still available. This is just one more exercise in futility, "for the children."
  • We should have 3D-printed robotic redcoats so we can give the third amendment some love as well.
  • by Ambassador Kosh ( 18352 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @02:12PM (#49640781)

    It doesn't matter if you think this is a good idea or a bad idea since as a society we have no choice but to accept it and figure out how to best integrate it into our society. 3D printers exist now and they will continue to get better. They can print things like weapons just as they can engines, food or any number of other things. What can be printed is going to continue to advance fairly rapidly. In the end how to 3D print something is just a file and there is no way to control files.

    The music industry has tried to stop music sharing and the movie industry has tried to stop moving sharing and we all now how effective that way.

    We can choose to bury our heads in the sand and not see that our technology has advanced to the point where it has destabilized certain aspects of our society or we can try to figure out a new stability point.

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @02:12PM (#49640785) Homepage Journal

    But I can't distill alcohol without a license. I can't even own a still without such a license (California, but other states are the same). I can brew 200 gallons of beer and wine a year, but I can't make a pint of vodka.

    But I can freely purchase plans to make my own still, I can order plumbing supplies to put it together. But the moment I have one that is ready to use, I've broken the law. And it will be confiscated and I will be subject to serious fines. (and incarceration in some jurisdictions, although usually not for a first offense)

    Hopefully this parallel helps inform people that government regulation can take many forms. And that if one aspect is too difficult or is illegal to regulate, there are other ways to control a problem and enforce the law.

  • by putaro ( 235078 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @02:13PM (#49640795) Journal

    Encryption was defined as a weapon until '97. There were a number of interesting end runs around that, including a book with all of the PGP source code in it. Since you could print the definition for a 3D gun, banning 3D files for guns should run into the same legal restrictions that banning the publishing of encryption software did.

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      It's worth noting that many lawyers believed the export restrictions would be tossed out as unconstitutional for digital files as well as printed books (since not doing so would clearly be insane, though that's obviously no guarantee the Supreme Court would do it), but no-one really wanted to be the test case when they could just print the source code and OCR it abroad.

    • Encryption was defined as a weapon until '97. There were a number of interesting end runs around that, including a book with all of the PGP source code in it. Since you could print the definition for a 3D gun, banning 3D files for guns should run into the same legal restrictions that banning the publishing of encryption software did.

      I have a vague recollection of reading about guys in 1980s-1990s taking suitcases of encryption algorithms on printer paper across the border to get around the export restrictions. It's a crazy work we live in...

      • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @02:34PM (#49641033)

        At the time, it was OK to publish source code in a printed book... but stored online as a computer document and exported, it was an ITAR violation. So, one encryption company (think ViaCrypt) printed out the source code of PGP and made a book out of it, which was freely and legally exported. Then it was scanned in and OCR-ed for the source code.

        This is one reason why that law eventually just got pulled, and export limited to the few countries on the blacklist.

  • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @02:17PM (#49640853)

    I'm all for DD supporting second amendment rights but come on... I still can barely believe that people are actually printing guns.

    Sure.. with some super-expensive, totally out of reach equipment you can print a nice metal gun at many many times the price of making it the old fashioned way. But plastic guns? Really... let me type that again... PLASTIC F'ING GUNS!!

    Law abiding citizen or criminal... I think a person shooting a plastic gun is mostly a threat to themself. One of these things is going to blow up in somebody's face!

    Those who support individual rights can call 3d printed guns a great thing. Those who fear inanimate objects and bogeymen can call it a disaster. I'll just call it a boatload of Darwin Awards waiting to happen!

    • by xtal ( 49134 )

      This isn't about plastic f'ing guns.

      The mill they're making is designed to turn pieces of high grade billet (commonly available) into real, functioning, accurate gun bodies.

      You could always do this, but it required investment of time to gain the required skill. You also needed at least a $2500 mill and some brains.

      Things change when it's a $500 box you put metal in and a weapon comes out. You can do that with a specialized gig and inexpensive stepper motor drives.

      3D printing metal technology is advancing on

      • Uh, no.

        The article was about digital plans for the Liberator, a 3D printed gun which is meant to be printed in plastic.

        The last I heard their mill was just a nifty little CNC mill. It's good for making guns and that's what they market for but it's nothing new. If you have the skill and knowlege to make a gun with it then you already have the skill and knowlege to make a gun with tons of other machines which have been available for a long time.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      US regulations define the "gun" to be the receiver (usually the part that the other parts attach to). Other parts are unregulated and can be easily purchased. On some firearm designs, like the AR-15, the receiver does not require a great deal of strength, because the bolt and barrel lock together to take the force of firing. So, making one from plastic isn't as dangerous as you think. The parts requiring strength are still made of metal.

      While 3D printed guns made entirely of plastic guns have been made, it
      • That's not what the article is about. The article is about a fight over their right to distribute plans for the Liberator. That is an all-plastic 3d printed gun.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          You're wrong. To quote from the lawsuit, it is about multiple files

          ...regarding a number of gun-related items, including a trigger guard, grips, two receivers, a magazine for AR-15 rifles, and a handgun (the "Published Files").

          Not just the Liberator pistol, as you claim.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is that the very thing they are afraid of happening (people taking the information & converting it to the real thing) appears to be legal:

    as long as it's for personal, non-commercial use & single shot?

  • The article makes the very same mistake that Code Wilson is trying to correct via the law suit. The article says:

    Only this time the fight isn’t over code erroneously labeled as a weapon. The code in question actually is a weapon.

    No! The code is not a weapon. [] A blueprint is not a weapon. A drawing is not a weapon.

    • by pruss ( 246395 )

      You could roll up a blueprint and hit someone with it. Not a very effective weapon, but a weapon nonetheless. And a drawing can be used to inflict papercuts. It's harder to hurt someone with code, though I guess you could drive someone to pull out their hair upon seeing how badly written it is.

    • Code can be a weapon (stuxnet, et al.). It isn't, in this case, of course - but it can be.

      There are several tacks to take on this particular file. From the point of view of the State Dept, it looks like they are regulating this similar to encryption and weaponizable technologies which are regularly embargoed. For example, it's not unusual to be restricted from selling a project which contains encryption technology the NSA can't break. It's also illegal to sell - or even give away - a program which removes

      • I should add - it's not illegal to decrypt your own media for personal uses which are allowed under fair use and other laws, but it's not legal for anyone else to help you do so. It's like locking you in a cell and saying that you may leave any time, which is your right, if you choose to unlock the door. But you can't hire anyone to unlock it for you, give you a key, or even teach you locksmithing. It's a fucked up world.

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Code can be a weapon (stuxnet, et al.). It isn't, in this case, of course - but it can be.

        Yeah, that is a good counterexample. It's interesting because in both cases you need something else to actually make it work. With stuxnet: a computer to run it on. With the gun design: a 3d printer, plastic, a bullet, and a human to pull the trigger. The stuxnet example is much closer to the code being an actual thing.

  • After they outlaw disseminating the information on how to make an impractical, barely lethal 3D printed gun, are they going to try to stop videos about how to make highly lethal, highly effective, plumbing parts shotguns? []

    Hammering plowshares into swords is almost as old as opposable thumbs.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday May 07, 2015 @04:23PM (#49641963)

    I downloaded them immediately when they went live and I don't even have a 3d printer. They're also all over the torrent networks still.

    So... totally pointless.

    What the state department really stopped was FURTHER files. DD put out the files to print a lower receiver for an AR15 and the files for that liberator gun. Potentially they could have put more out by now had they not been gagged.

    As to going forward, I'd suggest they try this... The lower receiver blanks are sold legally right now. I think they're 80 percent complete and because they're not 100 percent they're technically just pieces of metal. So why not do that with the gun files. Make them 80 percent complete and leave it to the internet to fill in the remaining 20 percent. Really you could just leak the complete file under an anonymous name but keep your organization associated with the 80 percent file. That way you might get by this state department nonsense.

    If they were permitted to

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.