They can make the demand, but can they really hope to control the information? I mean, the federal government also wants people to stop pirating Game of Thrones online too, but they haven’t been able to put much of a dent in peer-to-peer sharing.
On Thursday, Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson received a letter from the State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance demanding that he take down the online blueprints for the 3D-printable “Liberator” handgun that his group released Monday, along with nine other 3D-printable firearms components hosted on the group’s website Defcad.org. The government says it wants to review the files for compliance with arms export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. By uploading the weapons files to the Internet and allowing them to be downloaded abroad, the letter implies Wilson’s high-tech gun group may have violated those export controls.
“Until the Department provides Defense Distributed with final [commodity jurisdiction] determinations, Defense Distributed should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled,” reads the letter, referring to a list of ten CAD files hosted on Defcad that include the 3D-printable gun, silencers, sights and other pieces. “This means that all data should be removed from public acces immediately. Defense Distributed should review the remainder of the data made public on its website to determine whether any other data may be similarly controlled and proceed according to ITAR requirements.”
This isn’t so much a 2nd amendment issue, or even a trade issue, as it is a 1st amendment issue. Mr. Wilson wasn’t distributing guns. He was distributing plans to make guns.
If I built a car to be shipped to China, that would be exporting. If I posted the blueprints for making a car on the internet, that’s not an export. That’s an exchange of information.
There’s no doubt that the prospect of 3D-printed weapons has the government spooked, but what’s troubling is that the knee-jerk reaction is going to be a crackdown on the dissemination of information. If the feds really get moving toward restricting the dissemination of CAD files for firearms, how much new regulation of information on the internet are we going to see?
It’s positively chilling, and ultimately counterproductive. Like it or not, 3D printers are fast approaching the point at which they’re affordable by the average citizen. And no matter how hard the government tries, those with a little know-how are going to be able to get the information they want. So instead of driving the information underground with a futile and expensive crackdown, why not allow the development of this new technology to happen out in the open?