As might be expected, the anti-gun establishment instantly freaked out at the prospect of printable guns. (They say they’re concerned about undetectable guns, but that’s disingenuous. Our ability to detect guns is already spotty. They’re worried that if people can print guns, they’ll never be able to ban them.)
But what to do about it? Legislating against printable guns is slow, and would be ineffective anyway. The only thing to do is disappear the plans, and fast.
So that’s what the Federal government is trying to do. The US State Department ordered Defense Distributed to take down the plans from its web site. Why the State Department? Because they are the ones empowered to control arms exports. By posting the plans, Defense Distributed was exporting munitions.
This is obviously pretextual, and also ineffective, since the plans had already been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. But is it even legal? The answer seems to be no:
Wilson has complied with the takedown request for now. But he’s hinted at further challenges to the government’s decision. From his point of view, plans for the Liberator fall into a legal category that escapes regulation. . .
“We’re quite familiar” with the rules, known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, Wilson told me. . .
He argues that ITAR doesn’t regulate publicly accessible technical information. If your designs are put on library or bookstore shelves (something Wilson has actually done), ITAR effectively passes you over. You can read the relevant sections of the regulation, 120.10 and 120.11, here for yourself.
And he seems to be right:
§ 120.10 Technical data.
(a) Technical data means, for purposes of this subchapter . . .
(5) This definition does not include . . . information in the public domain as defined in §120.11. . .
§ 120.11 Public domain.
(a) Public domain means information which is published and which is generally accessible or available to the public:
(1) Through sales at newsstands and bookstores; . . .
(4) At libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents;
You never know what a court will decide, but according to the plain meaning of the law, the government’s actions here don’t seem to be legal.
UPDATE: The Daily Caller notes that the government already has lots of gun blueprints available on-line.