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Control freaks: just can't help themselves.

(June 16, 2015) Both the Obama Administration and Congress have been busy with firearm-related business in recent weeks, with the Department of Justice offering up a series of regulatory changes relating to firearms, and members of the U.S. House introducing legislation and appropriations riders aimed at rolling back some of the current restrictions and complications.

The issue that has caught the most attention within the firearms community is a proposal from the Department of State to "clarify" regulations regarding the "export" of "military technology." The proposal was obviously spurred by the 3-D printing activists at Defense Distributed, who have sued the federal government for suppression of their First Amendment rights.

Defense Distributed is a company founded by Libertarian-minded college student Cody Wilson, to prove the futility of gun control laws by demonstrating the simplicity of firearm manufacturing using 3-D printer technology. While firearms have previously been made using traditional machining processes--carving, away everything that didn't look like a gun--3-D printing reverses that process, spraying layer after layer of material (usually plastic) to build a three-dimensional shape.

The company caught quite a bit of media attention by building prototypes for an AR-type lower receiver, a functional, 30-round magazine, and a single-shot .380-caliber pistol they dubbed the "Liberator." The code for the AR lower is basically a reworking of existing and widely available code used to direct computer controlled milling machines that carve lowers out of aluminum. They just adapted it to drive 3-D printers, and tweaked the design to beef up stress points where the plastic might break. The Liberator pistol consists of a thick plastic barrel and a simple plastic receiver. The magazine is just an oversized Pez candy dispenser. There's no rocket science here, and all of this is easier to do with traditional drilling and carving than it is with 3-D printing, but the printing has a higher "cool factor," and if you have the code, and the expensive 3-D printer, it requires no skill at all.

All of the design files were posted on the company's website for anyone to look at or download, but shortly after the plans for the Liberator pistol were posted, Wilson got a letter from the State Department telling him to take the files down because they could be a violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR, and the Arms Export Control Act. These laws and regulations fall under the purview of the U.S State Department to ensure that weapons of war are only exported to people and places approved by the U.S. government--like Mexican drug lords and America-hating Shia Islamists fighting America-hating Suni Islamists.

The cease and desist order to Defense Distributed raises all sorts of red flags regarding freedom of speech and control of technology. It is particularly bizarre considering the simplicity of the Liberator pistol's design, and the fact that detailed designs for the AR have been widely available since the 1960s.

The simple reality is that in this digital age, common information and ideas cannot be bottled up. Certainly proprietary details about Stinger missiles or F-35 fighter aircraft can be contained to a degree, but once information is available in the digital world, it is unstoppable. In the short time Defense Distributed had their plans posted, they were downloaded hundreds of thousands of times by people all around the world, and immediately re-posted across the Internet using the same peer-to-peer file-sharing processes used to share music and video files. Considering that you can find AR blueprints adorning bench mats, posters, and T-shirts, and it's clear that any suggestion that posting digital design files for these is somehow a threat to national security or world peace is simply asinine.

But the Obama Administration is doubling down on its hopeless control addiction with revisions to ITAR that could make almost all technical discussion of firearms on the Internet, or in print, illegal. This has raised the hackles of gun enthusiasts and been jumped on as a new fundraising opportunity by some pro-rights groups.

Do we believe that the Obama Administration is planning to shut down websites like AR15.com and shotgunnews.com, or forbid the export of Guns & Ammo magazine as violations of ITAR? No, but the proposed "clarifications" of ITAR empowers that threat, while raising all sorts of other questions, and putting gun owners, gun magazines, and gun-oriented websites under a dangerous cloud.

So what we have once again is the Obama Administration proposing silly and unenforceable rules that couldn't possibly work, and which primarily serve as a fundraising vehicle for gun groups. In all likelihood the proposal will not only be shot down by Congress--as it should be (write and call your representatives)--but it will probably result in ITAR restrictions being loosened--as they should be (include this in your communications with your Washington servants)--rather than tightened as the administration is proposing.

No wonder gun groups call Obama the greatest firearm salesman of all time, while anti-rights groups have begun asking whose side he's really on.

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Title Annotation:THE KNOX UPDATE: From The Firearms Coalition
Author:Knox, Jeff
Publication:Shotgun News
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:857
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