Second Amendment advocates have a new defensive weapon in their arsenal: the First Amendment. In a settlement announced July 10, the U.S. Department of State agreed with gun-rights advocate Cody Wilson that his computer code for printing a 3-D handgun is constitutionally protected speech.
The settlement sets no legal precedent but, for now, lays to rest a legal challenge to 3-D firearms printing. Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed in Austin, Texas, pioneered the technology in 2012 when he fired the first 3-D printed handgun. He then offered free downloads of the design code from his non-profit company’s website.
State Department officials warned Wilson in 2013 that his online plans for the “Liberator,” a single-shot handgun, required governmental prepublication review and violated international weapons export regulations. Wilson took down the code, but after two years of hoop-jumping, he sued the State Department, claiming his code is First Amendment–protected speech.
Free speech hawks, including gun-control advocates like the Los Angeles Times editorial board, agreed while noting that the code’s proliferation is disconcerting.
Wilson’s website goes back online Aug. 1. It offers free downloads for a variety of firearms and parts and declares—or warns, depending on your perspective—that “the age of the downloadable gun formally begins.” —B.P.