Court: 3D Printable Gun Files are NOT Protected Free Speech


Court: 3D Printable Gun Files are NOT Protected Free Speech

You all know that when you take something off the internet it is gone forever right? There will be no copies anywhere. Certainly file sharing sites will comply and take down any content that is “inappropriate.” 🙂

Apparently that is what 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Department think. Okay, okay, I don’t know that is actually what they think, but their action of ruling against Defense Distributed and the initial request for takedown seems to indicate that.

The quick history for those of you that are not gun nuts or tech nerds revolves around “printing” guns. You may remember around three years ago Defense Distributed released a CAD file for 3D printing a one shot pistol called the “Liberator” (along with 9 other files). A few MONTHS after it was released, Defense Distributed got a cease and desist letter from State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Control Compliance complaining that they were in violation of ITAR.

Before 3D printers and Defense Distributed, it would have been impossible for anyone to make guns, right? In a whopping 2-1 decision, they were formally denied. The lone voice of dissent (in favor of Defense Distributed) was District Judge Edith Jones. She called the decision regarding the export regulations in this case an “irrational representation” while also describing the government’s actions as “pure content-based regulation.” Defense Distributed could, of course, appeal and ask that it be brought before all of the judges of the 5th Circuit.

The reality is that this move is really a limit of free speech. I think the goal was to stop them from doing anything more advanced and to prohibit others from doing the same. The Liberator, while a neat idea, is not a very effective, nor efficient, weapon. I can’t honestly believe that anyone expects the existing files to be recalled, but they certainly are trying to prevent new innovation in this space, all of which is based on a flawed “bury head in the sand” thought process. Stopping people from making firearms is simply a pipe dream. You can manufacture most of an AK from a flat bladed shovel. 10 year old Philippine children are hand making 1911s. That pandora’s box is already opened and alive and well on BitTorrent.

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Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Before that, he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie,” and assaults 14er in his sandals, and engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming copious water. To fund these adventures, he writes all manner of content (having also held editor positions at several publications) and teaches wilderness medicine and off-road skills. He hopes that his posts will help you find the gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it (and the training to use it). Learn from his mistakes--he is known (in certain circles) for his curse...ahem, find the breaking point of anything. You can follow him at

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