SAF and Defense Distributed Sue Department of State

Cody Wilson is not one to shy away from a fight, much less choose enemies his own size. In a David vs. Goliath match-up, Defense Distributed has teamed up with the Second Amendment Foundation to sue the Department of State over “Censorship of 3-D Printing Information.”

Defense Distributed, known for its 3-d printed Liberator pistol, had the Department of State require him to cease distribution of the 3-D files for the liberator under ITAR – International Trade and Arms Regulations. The DoS contends that the files were needed for review (a “determination/classification letter” for those in the industry) and after 2 years, had not rendered a decision. (Typical turnaround for a letter when I was in the industry was 60-90 days.

The Government’s restraint against the publication of this critical information, under the guise of controlling arms exports, violates the First Amendment right to free speech, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and the Fifth Amendment right to due process, the lawsuit alleges.

For full details and the press release, click here to be taken to the SAF website. 

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Kurt Akemann

    I hate to say it, but I have to take the State Department’s side on this lawsuit. America has enemies and its important that new weapons tech does not get into their hands. ITAR is needed to keep that from happening, and unless 3-d printing data for firearms can be restricted from being transmitted to non-US internet users (and it can’t), then I’m afraid that data restrictions, though a kludge of a solution, are needed.

    • Swiss Rat

      -3D printed firearms costs way more than DIY plumbing ones, aren’t as reliable as plumbing ones and can be traced way more easily since the printing plastic is more specific than the cheap brass/lead/copper tubes the plumbing DIY uses
      -Itar is a joke and was an economically protectionist based choice and everyone with half a brain knows this (many thanks for clogging the yuropean market with useless importators for US brand making the EU products cheaper through)
      -Printed weapon are an interesting weapon tech over anything built inna small workskop philippina style.
      -Non Us ppl will buy 3d printers for 7k + 1K software + a supply of 3D printer plastic only to use them as terrorist weapon when a full auto AK is readily on the yuropean black market coming from Middle east or post soviet armorie for a roughly under 1K€ a full auto rifle and ammo.
      -Thinking any decent computer tech can’t do anything about data restriction
      -thinking anyone with half a brain can’t design a break action design over
      – thinking the issue is not about printed receiver for scary ghost guns and artificially limiting access to a usefull technology yet obsoleting a lots of commercially manufactured products.

      Are you aware the 2nd biggest ennemies of 3d printing are Games Workshop and any Branded model/action figures company?

      • noob

        3d printing is expensive and crude *for now*.

        It would be inefficient to brute force a 56bit DES key on an apple ][e when the encryption that you and I take for granted in online transactions was covered by ITAR.

        things aren’t so simple today.

    • Kovacs Jeno

      “America has enemies and its important that new weapons tech does not get into their hands”



      • Jrb122

        Right? I involuntarily facepalmed to that.

      • Zebra Dun

        Abraham Lincoln.
        Just saying.

    • Nothing scarier than North Korea getting hold of some ITAR restricted Magpul kit!

      • noob

        What if they got a Magpul Unfair Advantage?

    • iksnilol

      So… kill/restrict information/knowledge because it can spread and because it *can* be used for bad stuff? Isn’t that argument what we gun people have to argue against? The whole “ban it because it can be used for evil” argument.

    • Not_a_Federal_Agent

      Anything for “National Security” right?

    • raz-0

      Well lets see. the 3d printer isn’t restricted, nor is the software to make use of it. They already have access to them. They also have access to the concept of a zip gun, which is what the thing essentially is. There’s a difference between hard to acquire technology and associated research and/or manufacturing information and how to hit the print button on a printer to make a glorified zip gun. There’s also a difference between information to manufacture such a thing, and actually creating a supply chain that is arming foreign powers inappropriately.

    • lucusloc

      So what do you propose we do about all the other arms documents available on the net? You know, the ones about making primers, powder, cartridge cases, barrels, receivers etc.? How is this bit of information more dangerous than all the other information that is already plastered all over? Hell, detailed plans on building Sten clones from hardware store supplies are easy to find, even if they are illegal to implement under the NFA. If the U.S. cannot regulate plans for a SMG, how in the world do they claim this is important to regulate for national security reasons?

    • n0truscotsman

      Not to dogpile, but I have to say i disagree because there is nothing “special” or “inventive” about this technology other than the fact that we live in a time now to where it is more commonplace because of increased digitalization.

      The problem is that the state department is trying to prevent something that has already been capable since the 70s, and that is a nation-state being able to produce a gun that can defeat metal detectors, etc. This attempt to put the genie back in the bottle is equivalent to ductaping a river dam as it cracks.

      Security has always been the excuse to stifle civil liberties. Just because they are too stupid or unimaginative to realize that they are infringing upon the right to free speech in a futile attempt to prevent a hypothetical.

    • David Sharpe

      Is this 3D printed gun more dangerous than other guns?

      It would be easier to build a single shot shotgun with plumbing parts from the hardware store….this gun is not anymore dangerous than other guns.

      • All the Raindrops

        It’s more dangerous to the person firing It.

        Or to my eyes for looking at it. Lol.

        And yes, all you need for a slam fire 12g is sitting in the local Ace store.

        In fact the US Army field manual on improvised weapons has dozens of designs and is readily available on the internet.

        This is just an example of overbearing government

    • 1911a145acp

      So we need to restrict 3D FIREARMS printing exchange so that the KOREANS don’t get it!? You cannot be serious….

    • Paladin

      “A matter of national security” is the age old cry of the tyrant.

  • guest

    Arms export laws are completely bogus. First, US has a history of illegal firearms supplies to various countries and groups. Both illegal as per the international law, and many of which were illegal in the sense they were never approved by Congress – which has resulted in numerous scandals. Now those cases involved actual firearms, not blueprints.

    Second, the “technology” being “exported” here can be called such only in a very broad definition of the term. The fireams itself and various accessories do not represent any type of “new” technology, nor is it something that is difficult to reverse-engineer or improve upon with no formal engineering skills.

    Lastly a number of “homemade” firearm blueprints are available both for the hobby manufactirers of untraditional firearms like this one, as well as more common hunting/sporting rifles and shotguns of all shapes and sizes, without any protest from the DoS. This also includes precise dimensions of all common ammo types, chemical compositions and manufacturing methods of propellants, explosives, inscindiaries etc in the public domain.

    Stopping this specific technology from being available in no significant way addresses illegal firearms sales and distribution, mostly because no actual firearm is being exported, and I am almost willing to claim that the treatment of DD falls under “cruel and unusual punishment” cathegory as it is obviously politically motived.

    • avconsumer2

      Indeed. The roughly 1,290 firearms (mostly full auto functioning AK’s I believe, not “blueprints”) still in the hands of those nice cartels most recently comes to mind. (Fast & Furious)
      Good thing they prosecuted the people responsible for… oh… wait…

  • Nicholas Chen

    I think the government is trying to figure out a way they can make money from this. As many have said, a lot of the regulations are bogus. NFA is bogus but hides under the guise of “safety for all”

  • noob

    2nd A + 1st A = the right to print and bear arms

  • Herr Wolf

    This Cody Wilson seems a little too slick for me- may be a “limited hangout”

    • He projects a “pied piper” aura similar to the one Adam Koresh did.

      • MANG

        Cody is on an ego trip and generally gives me bad vibes

        • noob

          he’s gambling with our future. If he loses and the case forms a precedent things will go very badly for the whole world.

          • Paladin

            At least he’s doing something. Sitting back and not talking about all the things that are wrong with .gov out of fear that they’ll just make it worse certainly won’t make it any better, and in no way prevents it from getting worse. They don’t need your provocation to motivate their pushes to further restrict our rights, they’re already plenty motivated.

            Action may risk further restrictions, but inaction guarantees them.

  • Don Ward

    Is… Is the trigger broken on that 3D gun in the picture?

    • patrickiv

      Looks like. Printed firearms have come a long way since the DD Liberator.

  • Here is one of my favorite incidents from the State Department’s attempt to prevent export of PGP encryption software. Some wag made a t-shirt with the algorithm printed in a machine-readable format. As such, the t-shirt would be considered an export-controlled munition.

  • In regards to Defense Distributed’s data files, the US State Department has jurisdiction because all handguns are classified as Category I(a) Firearms under the US Munition List (USML). USML I(a) items are subject to export controls as Significant Military Equipment (SME). Blueprints and other tech data for USML I(a) items are automatically classified as USML Category I(i) items, and thus, are also subject to export controls as SME.

    The government’s logic is that by distributing the firearm’s plans on the internet, the
    plans are available to non-citizens. Hence, Defense Distributed is potentially “exporting” the plans in violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Arms Control Export Act (ACEA).

    • lucusloc

      I went over some of the relevant sections, but I fail to see how these apply to what is effectively blueprints for a ZIP gun. Does the government assert that because the gun is plastic it is new technology subject to regulation under the USML, or are they asserting that Royal NoneSuch on youtube is also in violation, but they just have not gotten around to sending him a letter?

  • J.J

    The last I checked we as U.S citizens are already allowed to manufacture new firearms. so basically I can buy a milling machine, like the new ghost gunner, and make legal firearms just not with a 3-D printer. Another genius gun law from our incompetent government.

    • noob

      the court case is significant because it will impact milling machines as well as 3d printers – the are fighting to keep the 3d files and blueprints available online and make sure it is not a crime to have the files.

      If this application of ITAR is allowed to stand, it could be hard to circumvent. Imagine a world where you could get sent to prison for posting a schematic of an AR-15’s trigger pack as an image comment on TFB…

  • 1911a145acp

    Obviously, he should appeal on 1st Amendment grounds since it’s his “printing’ rights that are being violated!