In a victory for the Second Amendment, Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation have reached a settlement with the Justice Department that will allow the company to publish designs of 3D-printed guns online.
Most firearms owners don’t realize it, but the firearms industry is subject to a great deal more restrictions than just the laws and regulations administered by ATF. One of those that has finally gained attention from the mainstream is ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). ITAR is supposed to govern the export of firearms- and defense-related articles, but has expanded to include intellectual property such as firearm designs and technical information. It’s also the reason owners of night vision devices are forbidden from allowing non-US citizens from even looking through those devices.
ITAR gained more attention in 2016 after an executive order from the Obama administration expanded ITAR registration to encompass significant numbers of gunsmiths, firearms manufacturers, and ammunition manufacturers who were now subject to paying a $2,250 annual fee to register with ITAR. Even though they didn’t export any of their goods, simple things like threading or chambering a rifle barrel would now trigger ITAR registration. While a fix is in the works to exempt smaller gunsmiths from those onerous restrictions, the Justice Department also went up against Defense Distributed, a manufacturer and distributor of 3D-printing machines and tooling that can be used to build guns.
Defense Distributed had published blueprints online for a pistol known as the Liberator, which could be created completely through 3D printing. The federal government alleged that Defense Distributed was therefore in the business of “exporting” that technical data since it was freely available on the internet to anyone. The Second Amendment Foundation took up Defense Distributed’s case and successfully argued after several years to exempt Defense Distributed from ITAR registration. That’s a victory not only for the Second Amendment, but also for the First Amendment, as companies will now be free to publish technical data and firearms drawings without falling afoul of the law.
Under the terms of the settlement the government will makes changes to the regulations governing technical drawings and data, transferring jurisdiction from the State Department to the Department of Commerce and making clear that technical data is no longer subject to ITAR regulations. Defense Distributed plans to make files for 3D-printed guns available for download on its DEFCAD website starting August 1.