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The First Amendment Does Not Protect 3D Gun Controversy

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While a Federal Judge in Seattle ruminates the fate tomorrow of the pending application for a preliminary injunction to stop the online distribution of blueprints by Defense Distributed to create plastic guns with a 3D printer, make no mistake about it that the 20 states who have sued the State Department should argue that the 1st amendment does NOT afford protection to Defense Distributed because the online guidelines “encourage others to engage in illegal activity.” Arguably, this also “incites violence” (also NOT protected by the 1st amendment) and third, it arguably “supports terrorism” (also not protected by the 1st amendment).

The strongest argument to support this injunction is that we already have an existing federal law “Undetectable Firearms Act” which makes it illegal to produce a gun that is less than 3.7 ounces of metal. The thrust of the law is to ensure firearms can be detected via a metal detector device. 3D online guns are plastic and would not be detected. Thus, the 1st amendment would not protect the distribution of the online guidelines because making a plastic assault weapon violates existing federal law.

The corollary to this argument is that allowing any unfit human being access to these online materials may “incite violence” and also aids and abets terrorism by allowing much easier access to terrorist groups to “undetectable” assault weapons that can be burned very easily after a shooting since the amount of heat required to burn a plastic gun (437 degrees) is much lower than the heat required to burn metal. The 1st amendment does not protect this expression either. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, the 1st amendment is not so stringent that it would protect someone falsely yelling there is a fire in a crowded movie theater. The 1st amendment is not indelible.

Shockingly, in this debate, most people are missing how inept and non-responsive our Federal Government has been in making sure the 3D online guidelines aren’t accessible. The State Department “punted” when they recently withdrew the lawsuit against Defense Distributed. The excuse they gave was pathetic. A State Department spokesperson said that “state department plays no role in gun control policies.” This was NOT about gun control policies. It has always been about stopping a company from breaking the existing federal law outlined above! It has also been about the Federal government (by virtue of allowing Defense Distributed to do this) usurping the 10th amendment rights of States to “exercise police powers and enforcement of public safety laws.” By the State Department throwing in the towel, it hijacked the fundamental constitutional rights of all 50 states to exercise their own 10th amendment rights to protect the safety of citizens.

Last, US Senator Bill Nelson of Florida introduced a bill “Untraceable Firearms Act” which would simply make illegal the online distribution of 3D gun making data. This would be a seamlessly simple and expeditious resolution of the problem and would obviate the need for a Seattle Judge to do the job of our US Congress and make a ruling Tomorrow. But US Senator Mike Lee of Utah objected to the bill and now gun violence survivors like myself and millions of caring compassionate people across this country who want public safety to be a top priority are again “kidnapped” by political leadership that continues to place ego and personal gain above safeguarding human lives.

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