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After 100,000 Downloads, State Department Orders 3D-Printed Gun Files to Be Taken Down

This is both an inevitable and unexpected turn of events for Wilson and friends.

by Adam Clark Estes
May 9 2013, 8:45pm
Image via Forbes / Defense Distributed

Things at Defense Distributed are getting dicey — again. Just two days after being posting on, the files for the Liberator, the world's first completely 3D-printed gun, have been downloaded over 100,000 times. And just as quickly, the organization's founder Cody Wilson's received a letter from the State Department demanding he take down the files, citing international arms trafficking laws.

Wilson, the anarchist law student who's masterminded the so-called Wiki Weapon project, says he'll follow the government's orders. “We have to comply,” the 25-year-old told Forbes. “All such data should be removed from public access, the letter says. That might be an impossible standard. But we’ll do our part to remove it from our servers.”

It's funny how this is both an inevitable and unexpected turn of events for Wilson and friends. As hard as Defense Distributed tried to operate within the confines of gun laws — Wilson even got a federal firearms manufacturer's license — it was the distribution that did them in. The State Department nailed the organization for violating gun export laws in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Because his files were downloaded internationally, Wilson was effectively engaging in arms trafficking. 

But did anybody really think that Wilson was going to get away with this 3D-printed gun scheme? Wilson did, and he's vowed to keep trying, possibly by getting an ITAR exemption since Defense Distributed is a non-profit. It's already a Pandora's Box situation, though. Those 100,000 files aren't going to undownload themselves. And as Forbes's Andy Greenberg points out, it's possible that even after the files are removed from, they might remain on Mega, the Kim Dotcom venture that's hosting the files.

It'll take some time to sort through the legal implications of the State Department's decision, and by then, the guns themselves might be illegal. Rep. Steve Israel is working on the issue right now, trying to ban 3D-printed guns through the Undetectable Firearms Act. It seems like the State Department intervention will only strengthen his argument for a ban.

But the takedown hardly means that Wilson is a failure. Once again, 100,000 people have downloaded plans to build a completely 3D-printed gun, and that's not even counting the thousands who downloaded the other nine files for 3D-printed gun parts that were taken down on Thursday as well. The files are out there. There's no sign people are actually printing the guns, though.

Letter from Department of State to Defense Distributed

3D Printed Guns
Cody Wilson