Feds block downloads of 3D-printed gun blueprints

'I still think we will win in the end,' Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson says in response.

In compliance with a request from the U.S. State Department, Defense Distributed, the Austin, Texas-based group that recently unveiled the world’s first operational 3D-printed handgun, has removed the design files for the weapons from its website.

BetaBeat reports that the State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Compliance sent a letter to Defense Distributed explaining that the CAD files for its 3D-printable gun are now controlled by the U.S. government as it conducts a review to see if the documents violate any regulations.

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“We got an official letter from the Secretary of State, telling me who they were, what their authority was under U.S. law and telling me they want to review these files to see if they’re class one munitions,” Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson told Betabeat in a recent phone interview. “That includes blueprints.”

Defense Distributed first released the documents after bringing Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg to an undisclosed private firing range in Texas where the gun successfully fired its first shot. In the first two days, the design files were downloaded more than 100,000 times, Forbes reports.

”This has definitely been our most well-received download,” Haroon Khalid, a developer working with Defense Distributed, told Forbes. “I don’t think any of us predicted it would be this much.”

Previously, the group had released design files for 3D-printable gun components, including a magazine for an AK-47 and a body for an AR-15 assault rifle.

By releasing the blueprint for its 3D-printed handgun, which the company dubbed the “Liberator,” Defense Distributed may be violating federal law against the export of weapons, the State Department’s letter explains.

Wilson has complied with all of the government’s requests and removed all documents from the Internet, according to BetaBeat. Perhaps not surprisingly, Wilson remains steadfast in his political stance, which has always been to point to the openness of the web and the freedom of 3D printing as a sign of the futility of gun control.

“I still think we win in the end,” Wilson told BetaBeat today. “Because the files are all over the Internet, the Pirate Bay has it - to think this can be stopped in any meaningful way is to misunderstand what the future of distributive technologies is about.”

Wilson has long provoked the U.S. government while drumming up publicity for the 3D-printed gun initiative. Defense Distributed named its 3D-printed assault rifle magazine, which was capable of holding 30 rounds, the “Cuomo,” after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was responsible for a state law banning magazines that hold more than seven rounds.

“Politicians, big Wall Street traders, they have armed guards,” Wilson said in a February interview with Talking Points Memo. “So New York passes a law banning high-capacity magazines and Cuomo says: ‘OK, New York is safe.’ But he should back down from the hyperbole. Not only can it [high-capacity magazine manufacturing] not be regulated, but it’s about to be exploded open right now.”

However, Wilson has had little trouble overcoming legal obstacles in the past. In March, Defense Distributed was granted a federal firearms license from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that allowed him to sell firearms legally.

Meanwhile, last weekend’s demonstration attracted a swift response from lawmakers. Sen. Charles Schumer from New York held a press conference on Sunday to support New York Congressman Steve Israel’s call to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988.

“A terrorist, someone who’s mentally ill, a spousal abuser, a felon can essentially open a gun factory in their garage,” Schumer said at the press conference.

The Undetectable Firearms Act bans the production, sale, or possession of guns that are not detected by metal detectors or airport X-ray machines. It is set to expire this December.

Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies and the startup scene for Network World. Follow him on Twitter and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is cneagle@nww.com.

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