IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Texas man is selling 3D gun blueprints online despite court orders

Cody Wilson argues that a judge's order not to distribute blueprints was an "authorization" to sell them.
Image: Cody Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed company, holds a 3D printed gun, called the Liberator
Cody Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed, holds a 3D printed gun, called the "Liberator," in his factory in Austin, Texas, on Aug. 1, 2018.Kelly West / AFP - Getty Images

A Texas firearms entrepreneur announced Tuesday that he's selling 3D gun blueprints despite a court order that essentially bans the distribution of such data online.

Cody Wilson of the Austin-based Defense Distributed argued in a news conference that the order from Judge Robert Lasnik of the U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday prohibited the free distribution of the plans online but at the same time "authorized" him to sell them.

"This judge's order stopping us from simply giving things away was only an authorization that we could sell it, that we could mail it, that we could email it, that we could provide it by secure transfer," Wilson said. "I will be doing all of those things now."

He said he began selling the plans via his website Tuesday morning.

Wilson maintained that he wasn't defying the order, which prevented the State Department from allowing Wilson to distribute the blueprints online. The department and Wilson entered into a settlement in June under which State officials backed off their objection over the distribution of the material.

Under the Obama administration, the State Department had held up the sharing of such blueprints over concerns they might violate rules that cover the distribution of American defense technology outside the country. The blueprints allow people with home 3D printers to make the firearms.

Experts say plastic guns have limited use — they often can't stand up to the heat of gunshots and are usually only good for a few rounds, and they're generally illegal under a 1980s-era federal law that prohibits undetectable firearms.

But aficionados of 3D guns have found a workaround to federal law by including a piece of metal that makes the weapon detectable but that can be easily removed, experts say.

David Pucino, a staff attorney with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said distributing the plans, free or not, still violates court orders in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. "I would also expect other states will step forward and say these files are illegal under state law," he said.

"Blood would be on his hands if one of these was used by someone barred under state or federal law from possessing a firearm," Pucino said of Wilson.

Attorneys general who are opposed to the distribution argue that they could easily end up in the hands of people who shouldn't have them — children, criminals, terrorists.

“Selling these files into Pennsylvania violates both our state law and the agreement Defense Distributed reached with the Commonwealth before Judge [Paul] Diamond on July 29," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement Tuesday. "Putting untraceable weapons in the hands of criminals presents a clear public safety threat to Pennsylvanians, which is why I am exploring all of my legal options to stop these sales."

Washington state's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, said: "Because of our lawsuit, it is once again illegal to post downloadable gun files to the internet. I trust the federal government will hold Cody Wilson, a self-described 'crypto-anarchist,' accountable to that law. If they don't, President Trump will be responsible for anyone who is hurt or killed as a result of these weapons."

Wilson says his battle is over speech, not weapons. "We only got the direct kneecapping and subversion of our First Amendment," he said of attempts to limit the blueprints.

He said he was allowing purchasers to name their price.

"I've gotten 392 orders since this press conference began," he told reporters Tuesday.