Defense Distributed on Beating Back DOJ Censorship of DIY Firearms: ‘The era of the downloadable gun has formally begun’

Wilson brings us the “Ghost Gunner,” a 3D printing gun-making machine. (Photo: Wilson)

With help from the Second Amendment Foundation, Defense Distributed and Cody Wilson are back. Wilson first made waves in 2012 when he launched Defense Distributed, a repository for 3D-printed gun designs.

The Department of Defense, under President Barack Obama, shut down Defense Distributed in 2013 for allegedly violating export restrictions. Wired magazine repeatedly called Wilson one of the “Most Dangerous” people alive.

Wilson fought back in court and won. This is a major First and Second Amendment victory, for both gun ownership and free speech.

“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby,” said SAF founder and Alan Gottlieb. “For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort.”

Under this settlement, the government will draft amendments that eliminate ITAR control over technical data that is central to this case. They will shift jurisdiction to the Commerce Department and allow Defense Distributed to publish 3D-printer blueprints.

“All credit due to Matthew Goldstein, Alan Gura and Josh Blackman,” Wilson told “The era of the downloadable gun has formally begun. If you want more, become a member of Defense Distributed at”

Defense Distributed will resume sharing files for printing firearms and firearm components. Most of these, especially the “dangerous” parts, are public domain or free-to-license designs. If they weren’t part of Defense Distributed, they would have flown under the radar completely.

See Also: Cody Wilson Drops New ‘Ghost Gunner’ Package, Adds 1911s and Glocks

More importantly, the ruling helps classify guns in general. “Significantly, the government expressly acknowledges that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber – including modern semi-auto sporting rifles such as the popular AR-15 and similar firearms – are not inherently military,” stated the SAF.

A Ghost! Run! (Photo: Wilson)

Until Defense Distributed was challenged under the Obama administration, sharing this kind of gunsmithing information was totally free. The move to censor Defense Distributed was part of a larger push for larger, nation-wide gun control.

Even though the Trump Presidency is much more gun-friendly, it’s clear that the court sees this as a free speech issue just as much as it’s about gun ownership. Sharing blueprints, even 3D-printer-ready plans, of commonly-available guns is not a crime, even if they’re new and original.

It doesn’t matter even if they’re illegal to produce in the U.S. While the bulk of these 3D-printed guns comply with federal law, it’s possible for builders to make guns that break the rules. If that’s the case, then the onus is on the builder, not Defense Distributed. They’re just there to make the knowledge available.

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About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. Like Thomas Paine, he’s a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

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  • Richard July 21, 2018, 10:53 am

    Reading this comments section is everything wrong with gun control. People are NOT informed, they just spew crap they heard and believed, or started out with a gross gross misconception and never bothered to check the facts. What’s worse is the people on the state and federal levels charged with making laws are just as ignorant and again have little to no intention of educating themselves in order to make sound legislation.

  • Leighton Cavendish July 17, 2018, 5:28 pm

    Still have to wait on affordable 3D printers…especially ones for metal…
    One day…

  • Ian July 17, 2018, 3:04 am

    But how can a gun be “3D printed”? The surfaces of 3D “prints” are rough – ie not good enough for a gun. It’s got to be metal (can those desktop milling machines do enough? and what about the barrel? – That requires up to 3ft long and how does one do the rifling? That would require some serious equipment, surely?

  • Brian July 14, 2018, 10:29 am

    Without joining, to me it doesnt look like to you can manufacture a complete working gun anyway.

  • Jay W July 13, 2018, 5:46 pm

    Lou you are terribly misinformed

  • Derald July 13, 2018, 2:29 pm

    If EVERY (or MOST) gun owners became members of militias, “…well regulated… being necessary to the security of a free state…” we would have a chance to save the Constitution and restore adherence to the freedoms enumerated by it. It is now certain and obvious we need this NOW. The organizing must carefully exclude and keep secret from, known or suspected Leftists, and to gather other ‘aware’ patriots and look to ‘aware’ military veterans to be the leaders. It may be our only hope!

  • J palmer July 13, 2018, 12:16 pm

    I hate auto correct. Changing my words making me sound stupid. I’ll proof read better in the future. Or perhaps I am stupid.

  • Cam July 13, 2018, 10:05 am

    Glad that he won but it’s sad that he use to host and give the files for free and now he charges a membership to view. Glad I got them before the whole ITAR bull.
    Hopefully someone will open their own page that host gun files since thingaverse baned gun related things for free with just add revenue to pay the hosting and management fees.

  • Mark Are July 13, 2018, 8:52 am

    Cody Wilson, a real life example of the intolerant 3%. These are the people who will fight and die for FREEDOM.

  • Frank S. July 13, 2018, 7:25 am

    From what I’ve seen the Defense Distributed website nor CNC machine will “make a gun”. What the CNC machine does is complete 80% receivers, not manufacture a gun, which I would classify as making a gun from a piece of blank stock. They may have blueprints to do just that, but the files and such I could see without paying for the site is for completing 80% receivers/frames. These DO NOT appear to be “3D printed guns”, though they may have such files available for paying customers.

  • Lou Bethel July 13, 2018, 5:13 am

    But you still need an FFL to produce a firearm.
    So for those of you that think you get to make something without any responsibilities, thats not true.

    An FFL comes with alot of responsibility, so be careful before getting too giddy about this.

    • CountryLogic July 13, 2018, 6:45 am

      You only need a FFL if you plan to sell or otherwise distribute firearms you make. If you are making them for personal use then no FFL is required.

    • Jerome Franklin July 13, 2018, 7:25 am

      The ATF states that you can make your own firearm. When its not for your personal use is when licensing is necessary.

    • Ben Dover July 13, 2018, 7:28 am

      An individual can make a gun for their own use without having a FFL.
      A FFL license is required to manufacture and sell guns.

    • srsquidizen July 13, 2018, 8:44 am

      Actually you can “produce” a firearm that is subject to federal law simply by dropping a cartridge cylinder into a black powder revolver (exempt due to being an “obsolete” design). And it’s all perfectly legal. But if you forget to put the cap-and-ball cylinder back in it when you decide to sell it, then you’ve committed a serious crime. Really dumb, but then most gun control laws are.

  • Dr Motown July 12, 2018, 2:04 pm

    I have no problem making my own guns at home, BUT if I have to pass a NICS or N-Dex background check when I purchase a firearm, then someone else should pass the same when he/she attempts to download the schematics. Also, there should be a way or “tracing” the weapon to the person who downloaded the program. As much as I appreciate his libertarian principles, this will get shut down as soon as some terrorist group puts dozens of these on the street, and the NRA/legitimate gun owner will get demonized again. Bad idea, IMHO

    • Lou Bethel July 13, 2018, 5:15 am

      I understand your concern.
      But having knowledge should not require a NICS check.

      • Wayne R Cook July 13, 2018, 6:47 am

        I agree…it’s the old, ‘let’s take risk out of the life equation’…another liberal monkey wrench. This is the first century in which society has attempted to remove that component of the hand of the developer, user, ..risk. It only drives the urge to beat the system….we need to stop attempting to regulate people and start to teach responsibility.

        Bankers got a large measure of risk removed when the government bailed them out at our expense….so they behave even worse…several now threatening to choke commerce if it includes gun research. No other risk component is given the attention that guns have received and a number are far more dangerous. ANY intelligent person can name them.

        Culturally, we’ve allowed the pantywaist lib to define the rules of intellectual engagement, which has put gun owners of the defense for 50 years. Their arguments are nonsense but they’re fairly successful in couching them in obfuscating legal language so they ultimately win and erode the individual rights of mankind.

    • Mark Are July 13, 2018, 8:45 am

      Well, that sure reads like the response that a good slave would make. “If I have to be a slave, so should everyone else.” I’d sure hate to have you on a jury of my “peers” if I was facing a trial. Because you sure wouldn’t be my peer.

  • WIll Drider July 11, 2018, 11:59 am

    “Significantly, the government expressly acknowledges that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber – including modern semi-auto sporting rifles such as the popular AR-15 and similar firearms – are not inherently military.”

    Since this is part of a Settlement and not Case Law, it has no application outside the Settlement. Whats an acknowledgment worth if it is only expressed in the Settlement and not published policy or referenced in Lawful documents and definitions?

    I am extremely happy with the general result. The ITARs application threatened every form of gunsmithing information as being exportable and violating the Law.

    • J palmer July 13, 2018, 12:11 pm

      So what your saying is the government lawyers out deftly out maneuvered dd’ s lawyers and settled knowing that they would not win this in court leaving it them the option to go back on the settlement in the future and perhaps face a court that will be more friendly to their governments argument. Very sly of those crafty government lawyers.

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