After a five-year-long legal battle with the US Department of State, Cody Wilson and his Austin-based company, Defense Distributed, have won a landmark settlement that now gives the company legal rights to resume posting its 3-D models of firearms on the internet.
“The age of the downloadable gun formally begins” on August 1, says Defense Distributed’s website, when the company will once again unleash DEFCAD – its impressive repository of 3-D gun designs – enabling anyone with access to a 3-D printer to reproduce any gun on the virtual library.
Featuring among the collection will also be the infamous one-shot pistol that Wilson released all the way back in 2013, naming it the “Liberator” after the famous single shot WWII pistol dropped by the Allied Forces over Nazi-occupied France.
After successfully test firing the first-ever fully 3D printed gun, Wilson decided to upload its blueprint on the internet.
Within a matter of days, Liberator was downloaded more than 100,000 times, apparently leaving the U.S. State Department with no choice but to order Defense Distributed to immediately remove the 3D printable blueprints or face legal action.
The US State Department’s argument was based on the premise that making downloadable versions of firearm blueprints available to the public on the internet was no different from exporting actual guns without a license, calling it a violation of U.S. Export control laws.
Claiming that the government’s action was in blatant violation of his First Amendment rights to distribute downloadable 3D blueprints online, Wilson sued the government on those grounds.
The first team of lawyers representing Defense Distributed was of the opinion that Wilson was fighting a losing battle, as the State Department had a watertight case against him and his company.
Wilson dropped his team of lawyers and settled for a new legal team, working in conjunction with the Second Amendment Foundation officials, who were confident of a positive outcome, despite the odds.
Five years and nearly a million dollars later, both Wilson and the Second Amendment Foundation stand vindicated and Wilson’s company is back in business, but of a non-profitable kind, obviously, as Defense Distributed is a non-profit organization
The DOJ settlement states that the government’s impositions on Defense Distributed, disallowing it to distribute CAD files of the firearms, was a breach of the First Amendment as the government ban infringed on the company’s right to expression.
The settlement also stated that “non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber” are “not inherently military.”
Speaking to the Washington Free Beacon, Wilson said he that settlement was, practically, a given as the State Department had a rather weak case from a First Amendment perspective.
“I think by the end DOJ realized they don’t actually want to argue with this because it’s such a stinker from a First Amendment point of view,” Wilson said.
“So, I really think they needed to get out from under it and they already had the export control reform so they literally offered me a modification of the ITAR,’ he told Free Beacon.
“They literally rewrite the ITAR for Defense Distributed in an anticipation of the change in the rules. Who knows when that happens, like a year from now. I don’t know. All this suggests they really needed to run away from it because we took it down to the mat,” added Wilson.
Calling it a triumph for free expression, founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation Alan Gottlieb said in a press release that the settlement was a big setback for gun prohibition advocates.
“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby,” he said.
“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,” Gottlieb added.
Wilson told Free Beacon that Defcad.com will not only contain downloadable 3D gun blueprints, but will also serve as a platform for sharing gun designs, and much more.
“Basically, because of the settlement, if you submit to me and we post through Defcad by these new rules in the ITAR, that information becomes public domain and so it becomes for all time,” Wilson said.
“So let’s say Oprah gets elected in 2020 or whatever, and decides ‘you know what this sucks, I’m not gonna do this anymore,’ well, whatever got posted in the meantime on Defcad that’s for all time, that’s good, that’s in the comments and nobody can come back and get that,” he added.
“And that’s a very interesting thing that I don’t think people understand yet,”
Defense Distributed also makes the Ghost Gunner 2, which is a CNC Machine, “built upon a large body of open source work, grbl g-code motion control, and popular microcontrollers,” that allows the user to “mill out 80% lower receivers for the popular AR-15 and 80% 1911 pistols with just a click of a mouse.”
This, effectively, means that anyone can use the Ghost Gunner 2 to make a non-serialized gun in their garage, basement, or anywhere they like.
Proceeds from the sale of some 6,000 CNC units have funded Defense Distributed’s lawsuit against the government, which was, in fact, the main purpose behind building the machines, in the first place.
In his interview with Free Beacon, Wilson also told the conservative political journalism website that with the settlement in place, people will now be able to do much more than just download 3D gun designs.
“We ain’t just talking about 3D printers and liberator pistols,” Wilson said.
“We’re talking about all the engineered drawings, cad drawings, everything related to technical data of all the guns we know and care about. And, of course, the new things. The things we haven’t seen yet,” he added.
Wilson’s plans for Defcad include making it a hub not only for gun designers but for hobbyists, too.
“The biggest takeaway is that this really is an opportunity for the Second Amendment to have new life on the Internet,” Wilson told Free Beacon.
“It’s not really about 3D printing. 3D printing’s a good handle, but in essence, that venture we had with 3D printing gave us access to a monopoly power to put all the data related to all guns on the Internet. It’s a beautiful expansion. I would think it’s actually difficult to overstate how important it might be to our movement,” he said.