Online blueprint for 3D gun violates export law, US says. Too late now. (+video)(Read article summary)
Cody Wilson removes from his website instructions for a functional 3-D gun, or 'wiki weapon project,' at State Department behest. US lawmakers, meanwhile, propose an updated ban on undetectable firearms.
A Texas man removed 3-D plastic gun blueprints from his website on Thursday afternoon, after the US State Department said he had violated United States export control laws, but not before the plans had been downloaded across the world.
Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson uploaded design plans for making the worldâ€™s first functional 3-D plastic gun, called the â€śLiberator,â€ť to the groupâ€™s website on Monday. Now, policymakers are scrambling to catch up with this new frontier of gun control jurisdiction.
The State Department stepped into the debate Thursday because regulating the export of defense materials and data is a national security issue, a spokesperson told CNN.
In a letter sent to Mr. Wilson, the departmentâ€™s Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance said he must remove all data and files â€śfrom public access immediatelyâ€ť due to restrictions under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
"Defense Distributed may have released ITAR-controlled technical data without the required authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, a violation," Glenn Smith, chief of the enforcement division, said in the letter.
Technical data regulated by the ITAR includes information for the â€śdesign, development, production, manufacture, assembly, operation, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of defense articles, including information in the form of blueprints, drawings, photographs, plans, instructions or documentation,â€ť the letter said.
By Thursday afternoon, the documents had been removed from the Defense Distributed website, which stated, â€śDEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls. Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information."
â€śWe have to comply,â€ť Wilson, a law student at University of Texas in Austin, told Forbes. â€śAll such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But weâ€™ll do our part to remove it from our servers.â€ť
But itâ€™s unlikely that the maneuver will prevent people from accessing the plans, Wilson said. He doesnâ€™t see this censorship as a defeat â€“ the government canâ€™t prevent the spread of the plans for 3-D guns on the global Internet, he said.
â€śThis is the conversation I want,â€ť Wilson said. â€śIs this a workable regulatory regime?Â Can there be defense trade control in the era of the Internet and 3D printing?â€ť
The blueprints were downloaded more than 100,000 times between Monday and Wednesday, Forbes reported.
For Wilson, the debate is less about gun control and more about access to information. The goal of Defense Distributed is to create a â€świki weapon projectâ€ť â€“ free access to plans for 3-D printable guns, according to its website.
"The future of distributed technologies in the Internet is that no one has control of the information," he toldÂ Mashable.Â "This is more than guns now, man, this is about the Internet, this is about information."
But Defense Distributed now has to file Commodity Jurisdiction (CJ) determination requests for each of the gun-related components on its website, which may give lawmakers more time to determine how to regulate technology in the US.
â€śWhen I started talking about the issue of plastic firearms months ago, I was told the idea of a plastic gun is science-fiction. Now that this technology appears to be upon us, we need to act now to extend the ban on plastic firearms,â€ť said Rep. Steve Israel (D) of New York, in a statement May 3.
RepresentativeÂ Israel proposed legislation called the Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act, which would make it illegal â€śto manufacture, own, transport, buy, or sell any firearm, receiver, or magazine that is homemade and not detectable by metal detector and/or does not present an accurate image when put through an X-ray machine,â€ť the Monitor reported on Monday.
â€śA spousal abuser, a felon, can essentially open a gun factory in their garage,â€ť said Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York, who backs extending the ban on plastic guns. "All thatâ€™s needed is a â€ścomputer and a little over $1,000 [for the printer]. And you donâ€™t even have to leave your house.â€ť