Free Markets, Free People

Does the government understand how the internet works?

You’ve all read about the first “3D gun” being made?  Well here’s some of the fallout:

Defense Distributed, the Texas-based nonprofit that wants to empower people to 3D print their own guns, has hit a bit of a legal snag. According to founder Cody Wilson, DEFCAD, the open source weapon-printing project powered by Defense Distributed, received a letter (embedded below) from the State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Compliance, telling him to remove the blueprints of the Liberator, his 3D printed gun, from the web so that they may be reviewed by the department.

The group’s website currently has a red banner appended to the top that reads, “DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls.  Until further notice, the United States government claims control of the information.”

“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,” Mr. Wilson told Betabeat by phone. “That includes blueprints.”

So anyone want to guess how many times those blueprints were downloaded before this order came along?  I know there are many other aspects of this case to discuss such as this:

In the letter … the State Department says that Defense Distributed may have released data that is controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulation without getting prior authorization. This would put the company’s actions in conflict with … the Arms Export Control Act.

“Please note that disclosing (including oral or visual disclosure) or transferring technical data to a foreign person, whether in the United States or abroad, is considered an export,” reads the letter. It also says that until Defense Distributed has received the legal all-clear, the company “should treat the above technical data as ITAR-controlled. This means that all such data should be removed from public access immediately.”

But other than a basis to prosecute, the letter accomplishes nothing. Same with the “law”. Add the internet and, well, whoosh, it’s around the world before the government even knows about it.

A perfect example of why, and you can see rumblings of it happening now here (and, of course, it is a top priority in other countries), government is growing more and more interested in controlling the internet.  Again, the excuse du jour will be what?  “It’s for your own safety and security that we clamp down on these things and take away some of your freedoms”.  It has no choice if it is going to enforce it’s laws does it?

And we all remember what Ben Franklin said about trading freedom for security, don’t we?

Don’t we?


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20 Responses to Does the government understand how the internet works?

  • This kind of thing is the meniscus of the old and the new.
    The old will try to hold onto the (actually) outmoded, regulatory modes, in their effort to try to control the liquid, market-based, and pan-national world that the internet provides us.
    This is REALLY the 21st Century calling (as opposed to that BS we get from Erp).

    • On the other hand, this certainly explains the rash of school children suspended for using digits or food pieces as munitions.

  • lol… most of my reload data comes from the internet.  I wonder if that means Hodgdon’s is engaging in arms trafficking?

  • PART 121—THE UNITED STATES MUNITIONS LIST ENUMERATION OF ARTICLES Sec. 121.1 General. The United States Munitions List. 121.2 Interpretations of the U.S. Munitions List and the Missile Technology Control Regime Annex. 121.3 Aircraft and related articles. 121.4 [Reserved] 121.5 Apparatus and devices under Category IV(c). 121.6–121.7 [Reserved] 121.8 End-items, components, accessories, attachments, parts, firmware, software and systems. 121.9 [Reserved] 121.10 Forgings, castings and machined bodies. 121.11 Military demolition blocks and blasting caps. 121.12–121.14 [Reserved]

  • But other than a basis to prosecute, the letter accomplishes nothing. Same with the “law”. Add the internet and, well, whoosh, it’s around the world before the government even knows about it.
    The point of export control laws on weapons blueprints (which is one part of ITAR) is not to “prevent it from being possible”, but to “give grounds for punishing it”, to deter doing it in the first place.
    ITAR is stupid in general, and never should have been written to apply to “plain firearms”, but the critique provided misses the point.
    (I kind of want the State to use its power to <I>get people making, oh, ICBM technology</i> to be careful with not just throwing data on the open internet…)

  • Aside from the obvious plastic issue, I’m trying to figure out how a steel pipe zip gun is any less dangerous.
    If it’s plastic you’re after you could probably figure out a way to sleeve PVC/carbon fiber and super epoxies to achieve the same effect.
    From what I read the printed prototype didn’t hold up well to anything bigger than a .380.
    This is, at best, a novelty.
    The panic is highly entertaining though, and makes me smile to think how shocked these boys will be at American ingenuity if we’re forced into it.

    • I figure the nail firing pin is about the same as a “ZIP gun” but the firing mechanism is probably more reliable on the plastic gun

      • Zip guns have been possible for a long time.  They generally aren’t safe or reliable.
        Buying a real gun out of a trunk of a car is cheaper, faster, more reliable and safer than any “homemade” weapon 3D printers included.

        • A) For now that’s true, if you are willing to assume the seller is not a LEO or under surveillance
          B) It is an inevitability that plans for more sophisticated weapons will follow.
          C)  I look forward to the capitulation of governments, including our own, to the truth that a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence cannot be accomplished…which truth is already the rule of law, here, as exemplified in the 2nd amendment.

          • If (A) was of any risk, there would be no drug trade any longer.
            For (B), there is a limit to capability of the material.  The nature of the material required for these devices will not change.  Regardless in theory a person in their basement with a few machine tools should be able to crank out commercial grade weapons and have been for almost a century.  Yet zip guns are not common.  Once you work out the bugs (and it could take a few years) in mass production, the consistency and quality exceeds anything hand made.

          • A) Like people don’t get sent up the river now because they sold to or bought from an undercover LEO, something illegal, and yet the drug trade flourishes.
            B)  Material limits of current 3D printer plastics scarcely matter, when what it potentiates immensely is producing near final dimensions on partial vacuum cast alloys such as duralumin.  It is possible to create metal parts with this system to a close tolerance, ones which often need only a few minutes of file work to be usable for far more than a one-two shot pistol.
            It means guns and weapons making tools of currently respectable specs cannot be kept from the public except maybe by the sort of police state which in and of itself justifies the use of such weapons to overthrow the state.

    • My premise was/is – this is a single shot weapon, as a zip gun usually is.   Somehow ‘the government’ is supposed to fear single shot (Liberator) weapons?   They’re in more danger from aluminum old people canes used as clubs if the stats are accurate.
      I think the thing they’re afraid of is they think they (government officials) won’t be safe behind their metal detectors any more.   As if there’s going to suddenly be a rash of assassinations because of this technology.
      Like I said, a novelty, like a fountain pen gun.  But it will keep the pinhead bureaucrats busy.

  • Because they can stop us from pirating movies and music oh so well.  The genie is out of the bottle, this thing is out in the world, they’ll NEVER get rid of it, I couldn’t be happier.

    • Mobile Tech Review, March 2027

      AppleSony introduced their iImplant 8 today, and the holographic Steve Jobs that introduced the product on stage touted one amazing new feature. It includes mobile 3D printing capability, using automatic downloads of 3D-layout data from the AppleSony Store plus readily available print stock nanomaterial supplied in 50 and 200 gram stock sizes. 

      Jobs demonstrated the product by printing an emergency syringe of snake anti-venom. He wryly observed that if 3D printing capability had been around twenty years earlier, he could have lived longer with a printed liver. 

      Some mild drama ended the product introduction when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Illegal Downloads confiscated the demo model of the iImplant, asserting that it violated various laws concerning guns and munitions going back decades. At present robolawyers from AppleSony are negotiating with the BATFID on an appropriate fine to allow sale of the iImplant 8, and on what safeguards will be needed in the AppleSony Store to give the BATFID total control over what items can be sold for 3D printing.  

  • To be honest, what is more important is how the government is abusing its purchase priority with munitions manufacturers and buying up all the ammunition in an attempt to undermine guns as a sport and a tradition.

  • It seems clear that a universal basic income would help workers by giving them more bargaining power. But others worry that a UBI would encourage workers to leave the labor force rather than voice grievances and demands, and that it would make changing labor practices more difficult. For instance, some feminists argue that a universal basic income would simply reinforce and solidify an unjust gendered division of labor.

  • Someone else can post the blueprints, then the Government can chase down each one that does with one of their letters.