Daily Management Review

Is it legal to print a gun? US is discussing 3D printing of firearms


A wide public discussion about whether it is permissible to publish instructions for 3D printing weapons is going on in the US. Publication of such schemes was banned for several years, but in July the US authorities gave permission to do so. Politicians from Democratic and Republican parties, as well as President Donald Trump, joined the discussion.

Last Tuesday, July 31, the Seattle District Court decided to temporarily prohibit the non-profit organization Defense Distributed to publish instructions for printing weapons on 3D printers on the Internet. The founder of Defense Distributed, Cody Wilson, in 2013 created the world's first firearm, which is almost entirely printed on a 3D printer, with the exception of a metal striker, which is made from a nail. In this case, it is easy to pull out the firing pin, so that the gun cannot be detected with a metal detector. This was one of the reasons for criticizing such weapons. Mr. Wilson named his Liberator gun in honor of the famous single-shot American pistol of the Second World War. This small, easy-to-use and cheap in production gun was produced for partisans and fighters of anti-fascist resistance.

The modern plastic Liberator is designed for 11 shots. In 2013, Defense Distributed published instructions and diagrams for its printing.

Shortly thereafter, the US authorities banned Mr. Wilson from distributing such instructions on the Internet, even though these schemes had already been downloaded about 100,000 times. Printing the Liberator was allowed only with the appropriate license and with a requirement to build an irremovable metal block.

Defense Distributed’s litigation with the US government has been going on for the next four years. The situation changed in June, when Defense Distributed and another organization, the Second Amendment Foundation, managed to reach an agreement with the US Department of Justice. Since August 1, it is theoretically legal to publish such instructions and drawings on the Internet. American observers attribute this decision to the fact that the policy of the Donald Trump administration with respect to weapons is more liberal than that of his predecessor Barack Obama.

The new rule relates not only to Liberator, but also to other types of weapons, for example, the American semi-automatic rifle AR-15, the Czech machine VZ-58 or the army pistol Beretta M9. "The era of weapons that can be downloaded from the Internet, officially started," Defense Distributed wrote its her website.

The agreement caused an ambiguous reaction in American society. In late June, prosecutors in eight US states and the District of Columbia filed suits in several courts to prohibit distribution of schemes for 3D-printing weapons. Later, they were joined by prosecutors of two more states. Many politicians from the Democratic Party also spoke against the permission to publish the instructions. So, Senator-Democrat from Connecticut Richard Blumenthal stated that if Donald Trump does not forbid the agreement, "he will have blood on his hands". Some Republican politicians also expressed doubt in admissibility of the publication of such instructions. "Although I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, this is wrong," said Senator of Alaska Lisa Murkowski.

Now the permission to publish blueprints of weapons for 3D printers on the Internet is temporarily blocked by federal judge Robert Lasnik from the district court in Seattle. The Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who was one of the initiators of the lawsuit with the demand for such a ban, said in this connection: "I am grateful to Judge Lasnik and feel relieved that he suspended the dangerous decision of the Trump administration to allow the online download from Internet and "ghost" weapon made with a 3D printer." In his opinion, had not this decision been taken, such untraceable weapons would be available to any criminal, terrorist or persons prone to domestic violence.

The gun’s creator, Cody Wilson, is going to appeal this decision and is ready to reach the Supreme Court. According to him, he defends the fundamental human right to access to arms. In addition, Mr. Wilson appeals to the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. The interdiction imposed by the court in Seattle is temporary, both parties are preparing for further action. 

source: theguardian.com