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Gun violence in the US

Man sells 3D-printed gun plans online despite judge’s order

Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed interpreted judge’s ruling as only barring him making the blueprints available for free, so he is now asking people to pay for them

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 4:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 9:29pm

A Texas man on Tuesday began selling digital gun-making blueprints, including for a 3D-printed plastic handgun, despite a judge’s order barring the distribution of the material.

Cody Wilson initially published the downloadable files on his website four weeks ago, after a deal struck with the Donald Trump administration that ended the federal government’s efforts to block him.

Wilson’s actions caused a political firestorm and even prompted Trump to tweet that making gun blueprints easily available online “doesn’t seem to make much sense”.

Multiple states filed a joint lawsuit claiming Wilson endangered public safety. One of the home-made weapons could evade metal detectors and all lacked traceable serial numbers.

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A federal judge issued a temporary order on July 31 barring the distribution of the digital blueprints, and on Monday extended that order until the states’ lawsuit is adjudicated.

Wilson told a news conference on Tuesday that he interpreted the judge’s ruling as only barring the free online distribution of the blueprints. He instead began to offer the files for sale and promised to send physical copies on flash drives or by email.

Visitors to his online marketplace, which was active on Tuesday, could name their own price for the information.

“Everyone in America who wants these files will get them,” Wilson said. “I’m happy now to become the iTunes of downloadable guns, if I can’t be the Napster.”

Wilson insisted that the digital files had already been available elsewhere online for years, and that barring him from distributing the content was akin to free speech censorship.

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“What’s at stake in the courts is simply the government is trying to tell you what you can and can’t have, what you can and can’t download online,” he said.

Seattle-based US District Judge Robert Lasnik said in his ruling that free speech rights were “dwarfed” by the harm that Wilson’s actions could cause.

“The very purpose for which the private defendants seek to release this technical data is to arm every citizen outside of the government’s traditional control mechanisms of licences, serial numbers, and registration,” Lasnik wrote. “It is the untraceable and undetectable nature of these small firearms that poses a unique danger.”

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Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson, who is leading the multi-state lawsuit, responded to Wilson’s latest move by reiterating that it was “illegal to post downloadable gun files to the internet”.

“I trust the federal government will hold Cody Wilson, a self-described ‘crypto-anarchist’, accountable to that law,” he said.