US prosecutors want 3D-printed firearms designs to go offline

About 25 prosecutors in the United States are calling on President Trump’s administration to take action against the sale of 3D-printed firearms designs on the website of a US organization called Defense Distributed.

In a joint letter, the prosecutors write that this is an urgent subject. According to the signatories, it appears that Defense Distributed has recently resumed creating and publishing computer files for the production of 3D-printed firearms through its own website. Prosecutors say the government must act swiftly at the civil and criminal levels to ensure that Defense Distributed complies with federal law. They argue that otherwise national and public security would be at risk. It is unknown if and when the US government will act.

It shows a preview of the available files, such as a 3d print design for a gun and various other weapons. These are presented as working firearms that can be printed with materials such as plastic, making them undetectable by standard metal detectors. Prosecutors, who hail from various US states, say publishing these drafts violates federal export laws. In addition, they emphasize that the files could result in functioning plastic weapons, which would violate the federal Undetectable Firearms Act.

This case has been going on for several years. The Obama administration took the position that it was necessary to regulate 3D-printed firearms and the necessary CAD files. However, in 2018, the US State Department ruled that the publication of the weapons blueprints did not violate export restrictions. That cleared the way for Cody Wilson, a gun rights advocate and the man behind Defense Distributed, to publish the files.

Judges have put a stop to that on more than one occasion, but in late March, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wilson had started selling designs on the Defcad website after all. A system would be used that would allow the sale only to US citizens, although that does not prevent an American from passing on the files to third parties who may or may not live abroad. Wilson uses a subscription model, where users can access the available files for fifty dollars a year. He would describe the service as a ‘Netflix for 3D firearms’.

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