It would be nice if the courts were to acknowledge that sharing the designs for firearms online is just like printing them up and distributing them in a book—that is, an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It would be nice, and it's a point even conceded by at least one of the state attorneys general trying to stop Defense Distributed from sharing such plans online, but the legal nod is hardly necessary. The internet is a nearly perfect medium for distributing information no matter what the law says, which is something that politicians should have learned when they declared war on Napster almost two decades ago without making a dent in file-sharing. Just like shared music and movie files, downloadable gun plans are here to stay.
"I'm sorry that some people are just waking up to the idea that the First Amendment protects scientific inquiry that doesn't advantage...what?...the gun control movement?" commented Cody Wilson, head honcho of Defense Distributed, to Fox News's Chris Wallace on Sunday.
Wilson spoke after the federal government dropped its efforts to keep gun designs off the Internet by insisting they violated munitions-export rules. In fact, the federal government hadn't actually accomplished its censorious goal at all—except in the case of high-profile Defense Distributed, which developed the first 3D-printed firearm, the Liberator. The federal settlement recognized reality and let Defense Distributed loose to do what others were already doing. Then, a gaggle of state attorneys general promptly freaked out in public and found a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) forcing Defense Distributed to take its DefCad.com file repository offline.
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