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How the First Amendment Helps Protect Your Second Amendment Rights: New at Reason

Code is speech, making it hard for the government to stop the spread of 3-D printed guns.

Cody WilsonMark McDaniel/ReasonCan a gun be protected by our rights to free speech? According to a recent settlement by the Department of Justice, when the gun is a schematic written in computer code, it can.

Reason readers will be familiar with the saga of Cody Wilson and his gun rights collective, Defense Distributed. Disturbed by the rising tide of anti-gun sentiment in the cultural discourse, Wilson and his comrades set out to secure Americans' rights to defend ourselves against government abuse. But they took a different tack than Second Amendment advocates before them. Rather than spending billions on lobbying and public persuasion campaigns, Defense Distributed bound their fate to the mast of technological determinism. They put guns on the internet.

It has been about five years since the first 3-D printed gun was fired. Engineers at Wilson's Austin-based firearms defense syndicate had been hard at work building the first prototypes. While the design looked a bit like a toy gun that a young boy might play with, the plastic-cast first DIY handgun, dubbed "the Liberator," was truly fearsome to regulators and gun control hardliners. On its launch day, Defense Distrbuted's "Wiki Weapon" schematic file had been downloaded 50,000 times from their DEFCAD.org website. Andrea O'Sullivan discusses the battle over the right to publish code that soon followed.

Photo Credit: Mark McDaniel/Reason

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