Blueprints for 3D printed guns to again appear online

A settlement with the government will let Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed spread their plans.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read
Defense Distributed

Defense Distributed will soon be able to again publish designs for 3D printed guns.

The company's owner, Cody Wilson, confirmed in an email that he'll resume publication Aug. 1. Last week, the US Department of State agreed to waive its prior restraint order against Wilson and Defense Distributed, allowing them to freely publish designs and other technical files about 3D printed guns, according to a press release from the Second Amendment Foundation. The SAF joined Defense Distributed in a 2015 lawsuit over the restraint order.

"The government will draft and pursue regulatory amendments that eliminate ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] control over the technical information at the center of this case," Alan Gottlieb, founder and vice president of SAF, said in the release. "They will transfer export jurisdiction to the Commerce Department, [which] will allow Defense Distributed and SAF to publish information about 3D technology."

The State Department oversees the exports of defense products in accordance with the ITAR, which was why the department had the run-in with Defense Distributed, according to a State Department spokesperson. Since the Department of Commerce will take over the responsibility of regulating exports and manufacturing of commercially available firearms, the State Department settled with Defense Distributed and SAF because the issues raised in the lawsuit won't be relevant to it in the near future.

The designs are free to download, Wilson said in an emailed statement. Asked whether it worries him that people with bad intentions might get their hands on his designs, he said, "no concerns regarding public access." In the SAF release, Gottleib called the settlement "a First Amendment victory for free speech" and "a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby."

In 2013, Wilson and his company debuted the world's first 3D printed gun, the Liberator, which was made out of plastic and could fire standard handgun rounds. Several months later, the State Department said Defense Distributed violated the ITAR by publishing its designs for the gun. The company then removed the files, according to Ars Technica.

Two years later, the company and SAF sued the Department of State, arguing the government can't prevent publication before it occurs.

Wilson's plastic gun is undetectable at airports and other metal-detection checkpoints. The Undetectable Firearms Act makes it a federal offense to "manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive" a firearm capable of defeating airport metal detection.

Wilson told Ars Technica he's been cashing in from selling the Ghost Gunner, a home tool that lets people make a key gun part out of metal and use that part to build an untraceable firearm.

Corrections, July 18 at 7:52 a.m. PT: An earlier version of this story misidentified the Department of Commerce's responsibility. It will regulate commercially available firearms. 

iHate: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

Blockchain Decoded: CNET looks at the tech powering bitcoin -- and soon, too, a myriad of services that will change your life.