US Judge Extends the Ban of Downloadable Blueprints for 3D-Printed Guns

The actions of the Texas-based Distributed Defense company are sparking a legal battle as well as a debate about gun violence and untraceable 3D-printed guns.
Mario L. Major

Although this period should not be thought of as the Age of Tech, in many ways it can be considered the Age of Next-Generation Tech, a time characterized by the unprecedented growth of innovative technology solutions.

At the same time, however, it's important for policymakers and industry leaders to continue to work together to encourage responsible use among consumers as well as fair play among competitors.

One of the most recent examples of this involves an ongoing legal battle involving an Austin-based company which provides its designs of digital blueprints for various small arms for 3D printing.

Defense Distributed, the name of the company at the center of the lawsuit, faces a tough legal battle: multiple lawsuits from a total of 19 states as well as the District of Columbia have been filed for a company which has only been in operation for six years. The first blueprints appear in 2013. 

The latest development in the story came with the ruling on Monday by U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle to extend a temporary restraining order against the company. This means that the status of the company, as well as its plans to move forward with its blueprints, remains up in the air.

Complicating the issue is that the Trump Administration had reached a settlement with the company, allowing it move forward with making its blueprints available to the public. This decision led to the strong response and decision to take from legal action in so many states.

The challenge of setting legal boundaries

The most contentious part of the legal issue concerns the fact that Since the Company founder and CEO Cody Wilson's defense has been that he should be able to operate his company openly without restrictions because of the First and Second Amendment, constitutional rights which guarantee freedom of speech and the right to bear arms, respectively.

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Still, Judge Lasnik was very strong in his words about the impact that 3D-printed guns could have in a society like the United States which already is under fire for its inability to contain the rise in gun violence in recent years.

From Judge Lasnik’s order:

“Promising to detect the undetectable while at the same time removing a significant regulatory hurdle to the proliferation of these weapons — both domestically and internationally — rings hollow and in no way ameliorates, much less avoids, the harms that are likely to befall the states if an injunction is not issued.”

The legal aspect of this issue aside, the most crucial part of the debate is that the tech community must continue to take a hard look at the many ways that this influx of technology impacts, and will continue to impact, our lives. Such wisdom is necessary to ensure that good intentions do need lead to bad outcomes. 

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