Thursday, July 12, 2018

Defense Distributed Wins Its Lawsuit...Sometimes You Can Beat City Hall

This case is big, and why it is getting so little coverage, even in the conservative press is beyond me.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) has just settled, really surrendered to Defense Distributed, in a way that essentially ends the gun control debate.  I wouldn't call it :Yuge," but it is a precedent that may shut up the gun grabbers shouting that civilians should carry "weapons of war" on America's streets.

Tom Knighton at Bearing Arms. Citing a Wired article, Knighton quotes:
FIVE YEARS AGO, 25-year-old radical libertarian Cody Wilson stood on a remote central Texas gun range and pulled the trigger on the world’s first fully 3-D-printed gun. When, to his relief, his plastic invention fired a .380-caliber bullet into a berm of dirt without jamming or exploding in his hands, he drove back to Austin and uploaded the blueprints for the pistol to his website,
He’d launched the site months earlier along with an anarchist video manifesto, declaring that gun control would never be the same in an era when anyone can download and print their own firearm with a few clicks. In the days after that first test-firing, his gun was downloaded more than 100,000 times. Wilson made the decision to go all in on the project, dropping out of law school at the University of Texas, as if to confirm his belief that technology supersedes law.
The law caught up. Less than a week later, Wilson received a letter from the US State Department demanding that he take down his printable-gun blueprints or face prosecution for violating federal export controls. Under an obscure set of US regulations known as the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Wilson was accused of exporting weapons without a license, just as if he’d shipped his plastic gun to Mexico rather than put a digital version of it on the internet. He took offline, but his lawyer warned him that he still potentially faced millions of dollars in fines and years in prison simply for having made the file available to overseas downloaders for a few days. “I thought my life was over,” Wilson says.
Two months ago, the Department of Justice quietly offered Wilson a settlement to end a lawsuit he and a group of co-plaintiffs have pursued since 2015 against the United States government. Wilson and his team of lawyers focused their legal argument on a free speech claim: They pointed out that by forbidding Wilson from posting his 3-D-printable data, the State Department was not only violating his right to bear arms but his right to freely share information. By blurring the line between a gun and a digital file, Wilson had also successfully blurred the lines between the Second Amendment and the First.
“If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident,” Wilson explained to WIRED when he first launched the lawsuit in 2015. “So what if this code is a gun?”
The Department of Justice’s surprising settlement, confirmed in court documents earlier this month, essentially surrenders to that argument. It promises to change the export control rules surrounding any firearm below .50 caliber—with a few exceptions like fully automatic weapons and rare gun designs that use caseless ammunition—and move their regulation to the Commerce Department, which won’t try to police technical data about the guns posted on the public internet. In the meantime, it gives Wilson a unique license to publish data about those weapons anywhere he chooses."
In this settlement, the DOJ is admitting that semiautomatic guns up through 50 caliber are not weapons of war.  The ability to print a gun from files obtained on the internet also means that criminals no longer have to steal guns from legal owners, they can make their own.  or they can purchase them from some enterprising individual who wants to make a quick, if illegal buck.  Another argument gone from the gun grabbers play book.

So far, 3D printed guns work, but the idea of putting 10,000 rounds through one is not possible.  That kind of testing and reliability is what law enforcement, the military, and concealed carriers generally are looking for, so I don't think 3D printing of guns will harm the traditional gun manufacturers bottom line.  But no doubt the technology will improve, better materials will be found, and it is entirely possible that relatively inexpensive, yet still reliable guns will be available such that people who are now excluded from owning a defensive weapons will be able to afford one.  Of course, that isn't what the Left had in mind when they wanted true democracy.

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