The Trump administration set into motion on Friday the process that will allow 3D-printed gun blueprints — first introduced by a Texas man — back online after being blocked from the internet twice.
Trump is transferring authority of some small arms and ammunition exports from the U.S. Department of State to the Commerce Department — a move that will effectively relax regulations that have previously prevented the 3D-printed gun blueprints from being posted online.
The rule change will be posted to the Federal Register, the official record of all government rules, public notices and executive orders, on Jan. 23, 2020. Once posted there will be a 45-day waiting period before anybody can apply for a license to the Commerce Department to post 3D gun blueprints online, according to a Department of Commerce filing of the unpublished rule.
Meanwhile, gun control activists warn that the change could make firearms available to dangerous people who would otherwise be prevented from purchasing guns.
But R. Clarke Cooper, assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, said in a statement that regardless of which department controls the export, all firearms will remain subject to U.S. Government export authorization requirements, review, and monitoring.
Wilson created the world’s first fully 3D-printed gun, which made its debut in May 2013. Blueprints for the 3D-printed weapon, named the Liberator, were posted on Wilson’s company website, Defense Distributed. Within days, Wilson received a letter from the State Department telling him to take down the plans until he applied for approval for the gun’s multiple components — or else go to jail. Wilson took the plans down, but by that point, they had already been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
After multiple appeals, the State Department agreed to settle with Wilson and nearly allowed the plans to go live again, in addition to agreeing to pay Wilson’s company $39,581.
The plans were published online July 27, 2018, after the company received a license from the State Department, but they were blocked days later after a federal judge granted a request from eight states and the District of Columbia to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the settlement agreement from going into place.
Pushback against 3D gun blueprints goes against the “American spirit,” Wilson said.
“If you have the right to keep and bear arms, then you have the right to make arms,” he said.
“It’s actually really easy to understand the issue, but people want to cloud it in public safety and security as an imagined talisman that will make all your civil rights go away,” he said.
Last September, Wilson was sentenced to seven years of probation after he pleaded guilty to injuring a child after accusations that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl. He was required to register as a sex offender, according to the Travis County district attorney’s office.
In Texas, it’s legal for a person to make and own a firearm as long as it’s for personal use and not intended for sale. The person doesn’t need to get a license to make a gun or register such a gun, according to the federal firearms code.
After his arrest, Wilson said he’d step down as Defense Distributed’s CEO, but he is currently the company’s director, he said Tuesday.
The main concerns about 3D-printed guns are that because of the plastic composition, they wouldn’t be picked up by metal detectors, and since they’re homemade, officials can’t trace who owns a 3D-printed gun.
Wilcox said the rule change undermines laws and background check systems that regulate gun sales. But Wilson said people have been making their own guns without 3D printers for decades and have never been required to serialize them.
Larry Arnold, legislative director for the Texas Handgun Association, said if the plastic is dense enough, the gun would be picked up by detectors or X-ray machines. Even if it isn’t, the bullets are made of metal and would show up in a metal detector.
“For the government to do all they can to keep something from happening that’s happening anyway seems futile,” Arnold said.
ARTICLE BY STACY FERNÁNDEZ, TEXAS TRIBUNE texastribune.org