Starting next month, US citizens will be legally allowed to find the blueprints for a gun online, download them onto a 3D-printer and then create that firearm from scratch.
These often plastic-based weapons are not registered which can make them virtually untraceable, often resulting in them being called ‘ghost guns’.
Unsurprisingly, the idea of lawfully allowing the public to do this has caused quite a fair amount of controversy. In fact the reason it’s being allowed at all is because of a lengthy court case involving the US Department of State.
In 2013 the State Department ordered that the blueprints for a 3D printed gun created by Texas-based firm Defense Distributed be taken off the internet.
The gun, called the ’Liberator’, consisted of 16 parts, 15 of which could be made with a 3D printer. The final part was a simple everyday nail to use as the firing pin.
Defense Distributed designs and sells both the blueprints for 3D-printed weapons and the tools needed to create them including advanced CNC machines that can mill gun parts out of solid blocks of metal.
The State Department at the time, argued that the downloadable instructions were technically classed as exports, and so could not be legally downloaded and distributed in the United States.
What then followed was a lengthy lawsuit during which Defense Distributed and The Second Amendment Foundation sued the State Department for infringing their right to free speech.
Some four years later, both parties have finally settled with the US Department of Justice ruling that in fact, the blueprints don’t technically classify as military materials and so can be shared and downloaded by the public.
As a result of the ruling the State Department has been ordered to pay Defense Distributed’s $10,000 registration fee as well as all of its legal costs.
Starting from the 1 August Defense Distributed says it will start offering its full library of 3D printed components and schematics online.
“The age of the downloadable gun formally begins,” claims its website.