Today, my colleagues and I filed a complaint in federal district court in Austin, Texas against the State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry on behalf of Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation. This case concerns the government’s censorship and prior restraint of information about 3D-printed guns. The suit alleges that the State Department’s enforcement actions have violated our clients’ First Amendment right to free speech, Second Amendment right to bear arms, and Fifth Amendment right to due process.
I will have a lot more to say about this case in the coming days. In the meantime, you can read a law review article I wrote in the Tennessee Law Review about regulations on 3D printed guns.
Here is the press release from the Second Amendment Foundation.
BELLEVUE, WA – The Second Amendment Foundation today joined Defense Distributed of Austin, Texas, in filing a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry, the Department of State and other federal officials, seeking to stop the Government’s unconstitutional censorship of information related to the three-dimensional printing of arms.
The Government’s restraint against the publication of this critical information, under the guise of controlling arms exports, violates the First Amendment right to free speech, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and the Fifth Amendment right to due process, the lawsuit alleges.
SAF and Defense Distributed seek to publish 3-D printing information at no cost to the public. Constitutional attorney Alan Gura of Gura & Possessky leads the litigation team, which also includes William “Tommy” Jacks, Bill Mateja, and David Morris of Fish & Richardson; export control counsel Matthew Goldstein, and constitutional law Professor Josh Blackman.
“Americans have always been free to exchange information about firearms and manufacture their own arms,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “We also have an expectation that any speech regulations be spelled out clearly, and that individuals be provided basic procedural protections if their government claims a power to silence them.”
The lawsuit asserts the defendants are unlawfully applying International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to prevent the plaintiffs from exercising in free speech on the Internet and other forums. ITAR “requires advance government authorization to export technical data,” the complaint asserts. There are criminal and civil penalties for violations, ranging up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million per violation.
Defense Distributed generated technical information on various gun-related items, which it published on the Internet. But it removed all the files from its servers upon being warned that it “may have released ITAR-controlled technical data without the required prior authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), a violation of the ITAR.” In June 2013, Defense Distributed submitted various published files to DDTC for review of a machine called the “Ghost Gunner.” In April, DDTC said the machine does not fall under ITAR, but that software and files are subject to State Department jurisdiction.
“Defense Distributed appears to be caught in what seems to be a bureaucratic game of merry-go-round,” Gottlieb said. “The right to keep and bear arms includes the ability to acquire or create arms. The government is engaging in behavior that denies the company due process under the Fifth Amendment. We’re compelled to file this action because the bureaucracy is evidently playing games and it’s time for these agencies to behave.”
The Second Amendment Foundation (www.saf.org) is the nation’s oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, The Foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control.