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  • Writer's pictureOzzie Paez

The Unstoppable 3D-Printer Guns

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Cody Wilson, the 28-year-old head of Defense Distributed, is at the center of a conflict between free speech, the Constitution and the law. The self-described crypto-anarchist and digital radical attracted government attention when he attempted to publish an open-source 3D-Printer gun blueprint[1]. Multiple States quickly went to court to stop the release. US District Court Judge Robert S. Lansik issued a temporary injunction preventing Defense Distributed from publishing the information. He concluded that State lawyers had established “a likelihood of irreparable harm,” but also acknowledged that the case raised “serious First Amendment issues.”[2]

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." US Constitution, Bill of Rights, 1st Amendment

Speaking as an expert in the field, government efforts to prevent 3D-printable gun designs from spreading on the Internet are certain to fail. Once interesting ideas are translated into practical concepts, the Internet virtually guarantees their propagation. In this context, Judge Lansik’s decision and inevitable appeals will prove irrelevant because the gun design at issue, and many others will become widely available for download on countless sites across conflicting jurisdictions.

This case illuminates how once impractical ideas are being matched to innovative technologies to disrupt government regulations and legal precedents. They are creating new conflicts between competing interests, such as safety and freedom of expression. Similar conflicts are likely to arise as more 3D printer-ready designs of patented products become available. In this context, the Defense Distributed case will be the first of many to challenge laws, regulations, and protections created for a world that is increasingly fading into history.

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[1] Cody Wilson: the man who wants Americans to print their own 3d guns, the Guardian, June 2, 2016,

[2] Michael, D. Shear, Tiffany Hsu, Kirk Johnson, Judge blocks attempts to post blueprints for 3-d guns, New York Times, July 31, 2018,

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