The Feds Shut Down the 3-D Printed Gun

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 9 2013 6:50 PM

The Feds Shut Down the 3-D Printed Gun

Texas-based Defense Distributed has received an insane amount of media attention in its quest to create an open-source blueprint for a 3-D printable gun. Vice magazine's report from the project remains the best, least-sensationalized look.

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This week, Defense Distributed—which had designed a workable extended magazine during the moment when it looked like that might be banned—announced that it had come up with a workable design for a gun. It took around 72 hours for 1) reporters to notice that the gun remained harder and pricier to build than a zip-gun or a black market weapon, and for 2) the Feds to shut this down. Charles Cooke obtained the long explanation:

The Department of State, Bureau of Political Military Affairs, Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance, Enforcement Division (DTCC/END) is responsible for compliance with and civil enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2778) (AECA) and the AECA’s implementing regulations, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (22 C.F.R. Parts 120-130) (ITAR). The AECA and the ITAR impose certain requirements and restrictions on the transfer of, and access to, controlled defense articles and related technical data designated by the United States Munitions List (USML) (22 C.F.R. Part 121).
The DTCC/END is conducting a review of technical data made publicly available by Defense Distributed through its 3D printing website, DEFCAD.org, the majority of which appear to be related to items in Category I of the USML.

Category I is right here. State's basically telling the DD team that, if it has a gun that works, it needs to be studied and approved. The dream of designing something that could elide the restrictions of current gun laws (including the ban on plastic weapons, set to expire at the end of this year) has been snuffed out. Which makes this a much more disturbing story, and very soon, probably a libertarian cause.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.