Banned 3D Gun Plans Still Available Online

Banned 3D Gun Plans Still Available Online

Blueprints for a 3D-printable handgun targeted by US authorities are still being exchanged online by gun enthusiasts.

The Liberator gun was designed by Defense Distributed , a non-profit organisation set-up to "defend access to arms as guaranteed by the United States Constitution".

The plans were made available for download on their website on May 6 but they took them down three days later after receiving a demand from the US State Department.

Officials insisted they were removed immediately to give the Department time to ensure they were compliant with US arms export control laws.

But copies of the document, which was downloaded from the site over 100,000 times, are now being exchanged through censorship-resistant file-sharing sites such as Mega and The Pirate Bay.

Sharing or downloading the plans is not considered illegal under US law, though assembling a non-detectable weapon is, according to George Mocsary, a gun-law expert at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Most parts of the gun can be 'printed' using high-strength thermoplastic, making them resistant to metal detectors and easier to smuggle into places where guns are banned.

But the firing pin and ammunition must still be constructed of metal and the gun can only fire one shot at a time, meaning questions remain whether it is as dangerous as a real firearm.

But Defense Distributed founder and law student Cody Wilson says the premise of open-source gun technology is more important than the limitations of the Liberator.

"Now the gun is out there nothing can take it back," he said. "I’ve talked to people who have walked into hacker spaces and seen a row of printers all printing Liberator parts.

"The next big thing is getting a picture of one of these things printed out in another country," he adds, adding that Liberators are already being printed in China assisted by a Chinese version of the instructions in the download package.

Mr Wilson insists he has done nothing wrong by releasing the Liberator plans for download. He claims there is an exemption for non-profit organisations distributing technical files that are in the public interest.

He also insists that the fact they can still be downloaded elsewhere means attempts by the US government to censor access to arms information have been defeated.

"This is the conversation I want," he says. "Is this a workable regulatory regime? Can there be defence trade control in the era of the Internet and 3D printing?"