Five years ago, a lot of people thought Cody Wilson was a wild-eyed fanatic. The New Yorker described his rhetoric about making blueprints for 3D-printed guns available to anyone on the internet as “divorced” “from any practical reality.” Yet here we are in 2018, and Wilson’s company, Defense Distributed, is still in the news being branded as a threat to national security. President Donald Trump weighed in this week, and just yesterday, a federal court blocked the 30-year-old from relaunching his website. What the hell is happening?
The website in question is DEFCAD.org, an online repository for 3D-printed gun designs. In theory, anyone with a 3D-printer could log on to this website, download a file, and print a gun out of plastic or other materials. “I think access to the firearm is a fundamental human dignity,” the self-identified crypto-anarchist told CBS This Morning. “It’s a fundamental human right.”
A lot of people in the United States government seem to disagree. Wilson and his organization had planned on relaunching DEFCAD.org on Wednesday. The website went dark in 2013, after the State Department threatened Defense Distributed with prosecution, claiming that publishing such files violated federal export controls. With the help of gun rights group Second Amendment Foundation, Wilson filed a lawsuit against the State Department in 2015, claiming that the State Department violated his free speech rights. And in June, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice offered Wilson a settlement to end that lawsuit that would allow Defense Distributed to publish blueprints for 3D-printed guns online once again. Wilson claimed that DEFCAD.org would return to the internet on August 1, but a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the website from going live just hours before the launch.
It was already too late. Before the federal judge took action, thousands of blueprints for nine different types of 3D-printed guns had already been made available on the Defense Distributed website. It’s unclear why the files were made available before the advertised date for DEFCAD.org’s relaunch. However, after this happened, 21 state attorneys general joined together in sending a letter to the State Department asking for the ban on publishing 3D-printed gun designs to be reinstated.