Inexplicably, the Department of State has just settled a case that will make it far more difficult for law enforcement officers and prosecuting attorneys to do their jobs. Perhaps the Department of Justice is unaware of their sister agency's actions - to address this, in addition to contacting your elected local, state and federal officials to enact ordinances, regulations, and laws to prevent so-called "Ghost Gun" activities, such as has been done in Philadelphia and New Jersey.
I recommend contacting the Department of Justice and, specifically, both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Office of Legal Policy, as well as your local U.S. Attorney's Office. If you want to skip the background, I've offered some language you can use at the end of this post.
A former University of Texas - Austin law student, Cody Wilson, sued the Department of State on First Amendment grounds in May 2015, arguing he should be allowed to publish blueprints for the 3D printing of a variety of firearms, including an AR-15-style weapon. A federal judge in the case had refused to grant a preliminary injunction that would have allowed him to keep the blueprints online, a decision upheld by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Two months ago, as reported by the American Bar Association Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, the San Jose Mercury News, Wired, and Vice, the Department of State suddenly reversed course. The attorneys for the State Department settled the lawsuit so that 3-D printing tutorials are approved “for public release (i.e. unlimited distribution) in any form.” The State Dept went further, agreeing to pay $40,000 toward Mr. Wilson's legal fees.
Beginning August 1, 2018, Cody Wilson's Texas company, Defense Distributed, will be able to publish its blueprints to make guns from 3D printers without fear of reprisal by the U.S. State Department. And, yes, he's gleeful about it, tweeting this picture:
As Vice reports, Mr. Wilson describes himself as "crypto-anarchist" and clearly states his motivations: "“Think bitcoin, or WikiLeaks. Those are strategic forms of virtual anarchy. “It’s people who create virtual forms of anarchy and push the government out of certain spheres.” And, according to Wired: "With his new legal victory and the Pandora's box of DIY weapons it opens, Wilson says he's finally fulfilling that mission. 'All this Parkland stuff, the students, all these dreams of ‘common sense gun reforms'? No. The internet will serve guns, the gun is downloadable.' Wilson says now. 'No amount of petitions or die-ins or anything else can change that.'
If you find these developments deeply worrying, as I do, please contact your local, state, and national officials (including your local U.S. Attorney's Office), as well as the Department of Justice (and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Office of Legal Policy). Here's what I sent - I'm pretty sure many of you can do it better.
To whom it may concern:
I'm writing to request your agency take immediate action to prevent the publication and distribution of blueprints for the 3D printing of plastic firearms, beginning August 1, 2018. It seems likely to me that, as reported by the American Bar Association Journal, the Department of State, in it's sudden decision to reverse course and settle its lawsuit with Defense Distributed, failed to consider the significant negative impact to ATF and to law enforcement generally of such an action.
3D printed weapons, made almost entirely of plastic, create significant barriers for law enforcement, from front line police officers to the prosecuting attorneys to do their job. Today (somewhat simplistically stated), when used in a crime, law enforcement uses ballistics tests in order to trace the bullet(s) that injured or killed a victim to an owner or user. Such weapons include a unique serial number and other unique identifying characteristics matching *this* gun to *this* perpetrator and to *this* crime.
Broadly available, 3D printed, plastic, fully functional weapons will hamper law enforcement significantly - such weapons can be created easily and privately, without any type or registration, licensing, background check or any other evidence (such as a sale and purchase record) that can identify the possessor of the firearm. Moreover, such weapons have no serial number, and, upon completion of a crime, the weapon can be far more easily destroyed (melted down) than even a home-made aluminum weapon, easing the destruction of criminal evidence and hampering law enforcement efforts.
William Bones, the chief of police in Boise, Idaho, upon the State Department's decision, told the Idaho Statesman that law enforcement agencies have followed developments in 3D-printed guns for "quite a while now. Measures are needed to ensure these weapons are safely built and to prevent access by children or those prohibited from owning a firearm."
I'm also deeply concerned that, according to the ABA reporting, " The government is also planning to change the export control rules for any firearm below .50 caliber and move their regulation to the U.S. Commerce Department, which has a simpler licensing procedure for exports." Whether this is part of the Department of State's settlement, or a broader policy shift to make it easier for wrongdoers to acquire DIY weapons, it seems to be directly contrary to the objectives of law enforcement and the DOJs Mission.
Thank you for your kind attention, and for taking immediate, aggressive action to protect American citizens.