State Dept. orders 3-D gun designs be taken offline

The government says it wants to review Cody Wilson's files for compliance with arms export control laws

By Natasha Lennard

Published May 9, 2013 8:34PM (EDT)


Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson received an order from the State Department Thursday to take offline his design for the the 3D-printable “Liberator” handgun, released earlier this week. As Forbes noted:

The government says it wants to review the files for compliance with arms export control laws known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. By uploading the weapons files to the Internet and allowing them to be downloaded abroad, the letter implies Wilson’s high-tech gun group may have violated those export controls.

Libertarian Wilson's design hardly risked the swift proliferation of 3-D-printed guns; there aren't that many 3-D printers around. However, the State Department's swift intervention indicates the government's wariness about how the growth of 3-D-printing technology might enable arms proliferation.

Wilson said his company will comply with the government's demands, but questions whether, as 3-D-printing spreads, such government interventions will work: "Is this a workable regulatory regime? Can there be defense trade control in the era of the Internet and 3D printing?” he asked. Via Forbes:

Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas in Austin, says that Defense Distributed will in fact take down its files until the State Department has completed its review. “We have to comply,” he says. “All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But we’ll do our part to remove it from our servers.”

As Wilson hints, that doesn’t mean the government has successfully censored the 3D-printable gun. While Defense Distributed says it will take down the gun’s printable file from, its downloads–100,000 in just the first two days the file was online–were actually being served by Mega, the New Zealand-based storage service created by ex-hacker entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, an outspoken U.S. government critic. It’s not clear whether the file will be taken off Mega’s servers, where it may remain available for download. The blueprint for gun and other Defense Distributed firearm components have also been uploaded several times to the Pirate Bay, the censorship-resistant filesharing site.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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3d Printing Cody Wilson Gun Control Guns Handgun Libertarianism