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Should distribution of 3-D gun plans be barred? Editorial Board Roundtable

August 2, 2018

Should distribution of 3-D gun plans be barred? Editorial Board Roundtable

Late Tuesday, a federal judge put the kibosh -- temporarily -- on efforts by Cody Wilson and his Texas company to publish online its blueprints for a printable gun, issuing a nationwide temporary injunction. This followed a deal the Justice Department struck in June to end three years of legal wrangling and allow publication of the printable gun guide.

According to The New York Times, the blueprints were downloaded “more than 100,000 times” in 2013 before the Obama administration successfully used gun export laws to challenge their publication online.

Responding to concern over the administration’s deal allowing publication of the 3-D gun guide, the White House said Wednesday Trump wasn’t consulted. Earlier, a White House spokesman said it’s already illegal to own or make a homemade plastic gun.

In a future world of such homemade guns that could be carried undetected through metal detectors, will people be banned from taking any suitcase, briefcase, backpack or purse onto an airplane because it will be impossible to screen for plastic guns?

Or is the concern premature? Some argue there’s no evidence the guns will work safely and effectively, leaving users liable to injury or death. 

What does the editorial board roundtable think about Wilson’s 3-D gun design? Should it be banned? Or is this a case where First Amendment rights -- and a world of plastic weapons -- should prevail? We share our thoughts and welcome yours in the comments. 

Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:

After “more than 100,000” downloads, the cat’s out of the bag and the legal jousting is little more than show biz. The next step, and it’s only fair, would be for Mr. Wilson to publicly manufacture one of these weapons, then, without donning protective gear or sheltering behind a shield, to publicly test-fire it. Mr. Wilson’s promoting a product. He should stand behind it.

Ted Diadiun, editorial board member:

Gun control folks put great stock in banning “assault” and other weapons. Since it is already illegal to own or make a plastic gun, where is the problem? It will be interesting to see how people get around the First Amendment in trying to stop distribution of the plans, but why anyone would spend $2,000 on a machine to make an illegal weapon that is unreliable and could blow up in your hand remains a mystery. 

Victor Ruiz, editorial board member:

Yes, this practice, and future attempts, need to be banned! Freedom does not include giving people the right to create weapons that will cause harm. This case supports the argument that we need gun laws that value collective safety over individual choice.

Eric Foster, editorial board member:

In 1971, 19-year-old William Powell wrote the Anarchist Cookbook, detailing how to make homemade bombs, poison, etc.  In 2000, he publicly renounced the book saying, “The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this.” Cody Wilson is traveling that same road. The major difference is that, unlike much of Powell’s scribe, Wilson’s instructions actually work. However, no public renunciation will be sufficient if/when someone is murdered by a plastic gun.

Mary Cay Doherty, editorial board member:

Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. Regrettably, Cody Wilson invokes his free speech rights without fully considering the ramifications of his actions. Although the State Department intervened initially, domestic gun control issues are beyond its purview. Congress should craft laws to mitigate the damage of this Pandora’s Box as they did in the mid-1990s when bomb-making instructions hit the Internet. 

Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:

The last I checked, the Second Amendment provides the right to keep and bear arms, not the right to produce one’s own untraceable firearms that can only have bad intent. Public access to blueprints for 3D-printed guns is a terrible idea, and both a law enforcement and public safety nightmare. 

Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, cleveland.com:

Publication of 3-D gun blueprints should be banned and Congress should enact clear legal prohibitions against sharing this information in any way that could be used by terrorists and others inimical to the United States and its citizens.

Have something to say about this topic?

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* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments on this editorial board roundtable to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at esullivan@cleveland.com. 

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