It was about two years ago (on May 5, 2013 to be precise) when the world’s first 3D-printed, plastic gun was test fired. It wasn’t quite a shot heard ‘round the world, but it was a shot that echoed around many media outlets. At the time, many noted that 3D-printing technology could put government regulators at a disadvantage, but the media mostly concentrated on the fear that undetectable plastic guns might be printed off in secret by criminals or even terrorists.
Cody Wilson, a then law student in Texas and a self-proclaimed libertarian, designed the “the Liberator.” Wilson also made the blueprints for the gun available for anyone to download on the Internet for free. The plans went viral, though it is hard to say how many of the 100,000-plus people who downloaded the blueprints actually have access to a 3D printer.
During the media hype surrounding 3D-printed guns in 2013, federal officials declared that these publicly available blueprints run afoul of a set of regulations known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). ITAR regulates the export and import of weapons in the United States. Wilson took down the blueprints, though they are still widely available on Internet-sharing sites.
All this takes us to a First Amendment lawsuit. Wilson is arguing that the blueprints are constitutionally protected free speech. To force the issue, Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed, filed a lawsuit against the State Department, naming Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior officials as defendants. So this has become an issue regarding censorship, as the government didn’t confiscate illegal guns, but actually banned the published plans for a gun.