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Sharing 3D Printed Gun Instructions Online Is Free Speech, DOJ Rules

The government can’t stop you from sharing instructions for how to make a gun using a 3D printer, as such an action would violate the First Amendment.

John Lott writes at Fox News that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) settled a legal dispute with a man who posted instructions online for printing a plastic gun.

Cody Wilson, the 25-year-old founder of Defense Distributed, posted the instructions he had created online back in 2013. Within two days, 100,000 copies of the blueprint had been downloaded, most from Spain, but also from the U.S., Brazil, and Germany. Just days after Wilson uploaded his blueprint, former President Barack Obama’s State Department threatened the entrepreneur with criminal prosecution, alleging he violated federal export controls. Wilson took down the blueprint, but because this is the Internet, it could still be downloaded from more than 4,000 other computers around the world.

“The Justice Department’s recent settlement with Wilson is very favorable to him, allowing Wilson to provide the printing instructions ‘for public release (meaning unlimited distribution) in any form,’” Lott wrote. “The government also compensated $40,000 of Wilson’s legal costs.”

Lott also wrote that sharing the blueprint online was no different than putting it in a book or a newspaper article, and thus fell under the First Amendment.

But Lott sees another win in the settlement.

“3D printers make the already extremely difficult job of controlling access to guns practically impossible,” Lott wrote. “The government is not going to be able to ban guns, and limits on the size of bullet magazines will be even more laughable than before. Many parts of a gun can be made on very inexpensive, plastic 3D printers or even from simple machine tools.”

The government would be unable to ban people from buying the printers, or imposing background checks on printer sales, or enforce any of the other laws required for purchasing a gun onto a printer, so this settlement basically makes gun control obsolete.

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