Legal experts weigh in on 3D printed guns debate

11 months 2 weeks 5 days ago Wednesday, August 01 2018 Aug 1, 2018 Wednesday, August 01, 2018 12:49:00 PM CDT August 01, 2018 in News
By: Blake Sammann, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - Legal experts are reacting a decision by a federal judge to halt the publishing of blueprints showing how to print guns using 3D technology.   

Washington judge Andrew Lasnik Tuesday temporarily blocked a settlement between the federal government and the Texas-based gun rights group Defense Distributed

The settlement would have allowed Defense Distributed to legally post blueprints online detailing how to print guns in 3D.

MU law professor Royce Barondes, who teaches firearms law, said Lasnik used an administrative statue to block the settlement.

"A federal judge has said that it needs to ascertain whether or not the law governing how rules are changed and promulgated by the federal government, whether those statutes have been followed," he said.

Cody Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, told NBC not being able to post the blueprints is a violation of both his First and Second Amendment rights.

"I don't think you should have the ability or anyone else should have the ability to control your access to it on the internet or your ability to print it on a machine," he said.

According to statement from Josh Blackman, a Defense Distributed lawyer, said this is a free speech case.

"These are merely instructions on how to build something," he said.

Barondes said it's a "significant issue" as to whether computer instructions are the type of communication that is protected by the First Amendment.

"In the United States, the federal government has not prohibited individuals from making their firearms, so a restriction on speech that prevented people from making their firearms would be unusual," he said. 

The idea of people being able to print untraceable plastic guns has sparked a great deal of controversy and legal uncertainty. Barondes said no one has figured out yet exactly where 3D printed guns fit in with the Second Amendment.

"I suppose the closest analogy would be restrictions on zoning, places where firearms are sold and restrictions on them through zoning ordinances," he said. "That's a matter that has split federal judges in their decisions."

But Barondes said it's not the 3D printed plastic "ghost guns" that worry him most. 

"What strikes me as potentially more important are the issues involving files for manufacturing completed firearms from partially completed ones." he said.

According to Barondes, federal and state governments don't consider partially completed guns to be firearms. 

"These arms, that people can complete, would be out of metal, and so they would be much more robust than ones that are printed out of plastic," he said. "There are what are called '80 pecent complete manufactures' which are capable of being sold by dealers, brought over the internet without federal regulation."

Barondes said access to 3D printed guns and their legality is problem that won't be solved soon.

"It's going to go on for a long period of time I think. There are a number of states involved and a number of defendants," he said.

According to CNN, the issue will return to court August 10 to decide whether an preliminary injunction is needed.

KOMU 8 News is asking what you think. You can let us know by participating in our Facebook poll.

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