3D-Printed Gun Company Ignores Court Order, Sells Blueprints

by | August 29, 2018

By Andrea Zelinski

The Austin man ordered by a federal judge to stop sharing free blueprints for building 3D-printed guns announced Tuesday that instead, he's selling the plans. Buyers can name their price.

Attorneys general in nine states have sued to stop activist Cody Wilson and his company, Defense Distributed, from sharing the blueprints for the guns.

"Anyone who wants these files is going to get them," Wilson said at a news conference in Austin after years of fighting with the courts to give the blueprints away online. "That will never be interrupted. The free exchange of these ideas will never be interrupted."

The guns have no serial numbers and cannot be spotted by some metal detectors, according to court documents. The attorneys general argue allowing the distribution of plans to make the plastic guns is dangerous.

"Because of our lawsuit, it is once again illegal to post downloadable gun files to the internet," said Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement. "I trust the federal government will hold Cody Wilson, a self-described 'crypto-anarchist,' accountable to that law. If they don't, President Trump will be responsible for anyone who is hurt or killed as a result of these weapons."

Wilson, who designed the guns so they can be made by do-it-yourselfers who have 3-D printers, said the federal judge on Monday made "a lot of unforced errors" in the written order that bars his company from giving them away per a negotiated agreement with the Trump administration after years of court battles.

So instead, Wilson and Defense Distributed put the blueprints up for sale. Wilson said Tuesday morning that a few hundred blueprints for guns had already been sold since the judge issued the injunction Monday.

According to the ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik, regulations under the Arms Export Control Act specify that "the files cannot be uploaded to the internet, but they can be emailed, mailed, securely transmitted, or otherwise published within the United States."

Lasnik went on to say that any "burdens" on Wilson's First Amendment rights "are dwarfed by the irreparable harms the States are likely to suffer if the existing restrictions are withdrawn and that, overall, the public interest strongly supports maintaining the status quo" while the case works through the courts.

Wilson called the judge's order "hysterical" and a "direct knee-capping of the First Amendment." He said he plans to challenge the judge's order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

By the time Wilson's press conference had ended Tuesday, more than 390 orders had come in for the blueprints, with buyers naming prices from $1 to $15. He said one person who bought a print online opted to buy it for zero dollars, which he said he would accept.

The company is sending the files to buyers only within the U.S., said Wilson, who expects to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of the blueprints -- he is sending them to purchasers by email and by regular mail -- but he doesn't expect to make much money from the venture.

He said he does not know how many people have tried to 3D print his gun design but that he expects few of the people who buy the blueprints will actually make the gun.

"Way more people download it than ever choose to do anything with it," said Wilson. His most basic gun design, the Liberator, can be shattered by firing a single shot. Wilson calls it a "coffee table piece."

"I think with that reputation, most people know that if they make it, it's just of a curiosity," he said.

More complex guns, like automatic rifles, would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and expertise to build with a printer, he said.

Wilson said he has raised about $200,000 -- much of it in cryptocurrency -- in the last week toward a goal of $400,000 in crowdsourced funding for his legal expenses.

(c)2018 the Houston Chronicle