Prior Restraint

Federal Judge Rules That 3D Gun Blueprints Can’t Be Published Online

Seized plastic handguns which were created using 3D printing technology are displayed at Kanagawa police station in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. May 8, 2014. REUTERS/Kyodo

Judge Robert Laskin of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle ruled that the State Department violated federal procedural rules when it allowed blueprints for 3D guns to be published on the Internet.

In July 2018, the State Department settled a lawsuit brought by Defense Distributed, a small gun technology company. The company argued that the Obama-era position that blocked the publication of CAD (computer-aided design) files was a violation of its First Amendment right to free speech.

In response to the settlement, 19 states and the District of Columbia sued the State Department in August 2018, and Judge Laskin granted a preliminary injunction the same month.

In his ruling on November 12th, Laskin called the agency’s actions “arbitrary and capricious,” noting that the State Department had previously held that “the worldwide publication of computerized instructions for the manufacture of undetectable firearms was a threat to world peace and the national security interests of the United States and would cause serious and long-lasting harm to its foreign policy.” He added, “Against these findings, the federal defendants offer nothing.”

He also said that agency violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act by failing to give Congress advance notice of its action.

Laskin’s ruling didn’t address the First Amendment arguments raised by advocates for the publication of the CAD files, because the “State Department has not attempted to justify its action as compelled by the First Amendment.”

The ruling was a motion for summary judgment, meaning that the case wouldn’t go to trial.

According to Bloomberg, Defense Distributed will appeal the ruling.

“The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech from all abridgment, including indirect censorship efforts like this one,” Chad Flores, the company’s lawyer, said in a statement. “And states aren’t allowed to commandeer the federal government to do their unconstitutional bidding, even under the guise of statutory technicalities.”


Bloomberg CBS News Motion for Summary Judgment