Cody Wilson, the Texas man who posted online instructions on how to build a 3D-printable gun, but was later thwarted by the government, has filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that his rights to free speech were violated, the New York Times is reporting.
Back in 2013, Cody Wilson developed what’s known as The Liberator, a single-use gun made almost entirely of plastic that can be printed on a 3D printer. Through his company, Defense Distributed, Wilson put the plans online, so anyone with a 3D printer could download them for free and have their own gun, without having to go through background checks, waiting periods, or any other steps necessary to purchase and own a firearm.
The plans for The Liberator proved immensely popular, according to Fox News. Within days, they’d been downloaded over 100,000 times.
The State Department was not amused.
Citing an obscure set of rules designed to regulate the export of military data, called the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), the federal government ordered Wilson to take down the plans immediately, or face fines and prison time.
Wilson’s lawyer, Matthew Goldstein, believes that poor timing played a role: the plans for The Liberator were put online not long after the Sandy Hook Shooting, and Goldstein says the State Department wanted to make an example of his client.
“After Sandy Hook, the government decided that it wanted to stop this. But there were no laws that allowed them to do so within the Constitution. So they reached into their bag of tricks and suddenly pulled out ITAR.”
Wilson filed suit, claiming that the government’s attempts to stop him from publishing his 3D gun plans violated his rights to free speech.
“Defense Distributed believed, and continues to believe, that the United States Constitution guarantees a right to share truthful speech. Especially speech concerning fundamental constitutional rights in open forums.”
Ken Paulson, president of The First Amendment Center, believes that Wilson’s lawsuit raises important questions about the right to free speech.
“The presumption is that whatever information people want to share is protected, and the government can’t tell them they can’t publish. But a key question here will be if restrictions can be put on Wilson in a way that doesn’t chill his free speech within the United States.”
Do you think that the government should be allowed to forbid people from sharing plans for 3D-printed guns online? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of: Shutterstock/AlexLMX]