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Editor's Note: This piece was written by Matthew Larosiere.
The federal government knows it can’t prevent you from posting gun designs online. It’s known this since at least 2018, when the Department of State offered to settle a case with Defense Distributed (DefDist), which it had previously ordered not to share gun files on the internet. This back-and-forth has made headlines periodically for years. The feds know the First Amendment protects all manner of designs, including 3D-printable files. For once, the federal government wants to stop an abuse of our rights. So why haven’t they? The answer lies with a group of state politicians, who at the end of January launched a push to force the feds to keep a policy that never really existed, and that nobody wants. This is ludicrous and must stop.
Background - Controversy - Dates - DefDist - Range
For some quick background, this whole controversy dates back to 2013, when DefDist was hosting a range of files online, including 3D models of its famous “Liberator” pistol, one of the first nearly entirely 3D-printed firearms. The Obama Administration had the Department of State order the files taken down. DefDist challenged this on various Constitutional grounds, most importantly the First Amendment. The Department of State’s tactic was to stretch its interpretation of a Cold-War era arms trafficking law, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations ("ITAR"), and assert that posting simple designs online was the equivalent of “exporting” significant military equipment to foreign countries.
The policy was basically a ban on posting any weapons-related designs online. Given the broad protections recognized by the First Amendment, this is obviously unconstitutional. Federal courts have long recognized that computer code is First Amendment protected expression, as well as recipes for all manner of things, including items that would be illegal to make, like bombs and drugs. It stands to reason that posting...
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