The issue of posting 3-D printed gun schematics online has led to a legal debate on whether it can be restricted or protected by free speech arguments. File photo by belekekin/Shutterstock
AUSTIN, Texas, May 7 (UPI) -- The Texas man ordered by the Department of State to remove the plans of a 3-D gun he posted online is suing the agency on free speech grounds.
Cody Wilson, 27, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in the Federal District Court of Austin, Texas, attempting to use the First Amendment in defense of the Second, a seemingly unprecedented effort, according to The New York Times.
Wilson posted the plans for his single-use, 3-D printed gun called "The Liberator" that's made almost completely out of plastic online through his company Defense Distributed in 2013. People could download and print their own gun without going through background checks or other regulatory measures.
"Defense Distributed believed, and continues to believe, that the United States Constitution guarantees a right to share truthful speech," Wilson's lawsuit states. "Especially speech concerning fundamental constitutional rights in open forums."
The plans were downloaded more than 100,000 times within days. The State Department responded by ordering Wilson to remove the plans by threatening him with prison time and fines for millions of dollars, citing rules about the regulation of exporting military data called the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
Wilson claims he spent thousands of dollars for the next two years on lawyers as he attempted to comply with regulatory efforts, but the State Department failed to decide on whether he needed a license -- causing him to feel singled out for scrutiny in part because he posted the 3-D gun documents shortly after the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut where 26 people, mostly children, were killed by 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
"After Sandy Hook, the government decided that it wanted to stop this," Matthew Goldstein, one Wilson's lawyers, told The New York Times. "But there were no laws that allowed them to do so within the Constitution. So they reached into their bag of tricks and suddenly pulled out [International Traffic in Arms Regulations]."