A Landmark Legal Shift Opens Pandora’s Box For DIY Guns

Transportation Security AdministrationAP Images

Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old libertarian, invented and uploaded blueprints to a .380-caliber pistol five years ago. When the government attempted to stop Wilson, he sued and ultimately won. Later this month, Wilson and his non-profit, Defense Distributed, will relaunch, reports Wired. This could potentially give access to the DIY gun to millions of people. While some find the idea terrifying and others find it exciting, few are debating the potential change such an event could bring to the already-heated issue of gun control.

The U.S. State Department issued Wilson a letter less than one week after his creation of the website where over 100,000 people downloaded his gun. They demanded that he take down the site and his blueprints for the printable gun, threatening him with prosecution and stating that he was violating federal export controls for exporting guns without a license. The government was using the U.S. regulation called the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Even though Wilson did initially take his site, Defcad.com, offline, once he was warned by his lawyer that he could be facing rather expensive fines in the millions of dollars, Wilson took action.

“I thought my life was over.”

Not only did Wilson manage to skirt the law, relieving his fear of life in prison, but by taking the project to court, he has, in effect, changed the law all together. Many have weighed in on the controversial decision. Wired expressed the possibility that Wilson has unlocked “new era of digital gunmaking.” Some feel it may provide leverage to the argument that he has undermined U.S. and even global gun control measures by providing a way for anyone to make a weapon inside their own home, without government oversight.

Several hundred high school students from the Washington area rally in front of the White House before marching to the U.S. Capitol to protest against the National Rifle Association and to call for stricter gun laws April 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. Students marched to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting and to demand that Congress pass 'common sense gun violence prevention legislation'. Featured image credit: Chip SomodevillaGetty Images

The Department of Justice offered Wilson a quiet settlement, thereby ending his and his co-plaintiff’s lawsuit against them. That lawsuit had been in the works since 2015, focusing on directing the attention of their defense on a free speech claim. Lawyers fought on Wilson’s behalf, stating that by forbidding Wilson to upload his blueprints for the printable firearm publicly, the State Department was violating his second Amendment rights coupled with his rights to freely share information. Many feel Wilson and his team blurred the line between a physical gun and a digital file, and won by bringing the second and first Amendments front and center.

Wilson spoke with Wired journalists, explaining himself and his publishing the data.

“If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident. So what if this code is a gun? I consider it a truly grand thing. It will be an irrevocable part of political life that guns are downloadable, and we helped to do that.”

He and his team have stated to reporters that they plan to relaunch Defcad.com later this month, bringing back the printable original one-shot, 3D-printable pistol he fired in 2013 to AR-15 frames. Not just that, but Wilson has also said that his site will feature a repository with even more exotic DIY semi-automatic weapons to a user-generated database of practically any firearm imaginable.