Ninth Circuit Court Panel Rules Against State Attempts To Block 3-D Gun-Printing Files

P. Gardner Goldsmith | May 2, 2021
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In a panel decision that indirectly touches two key human rights, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against state government trying to block the online dissemination of CAD (Computer-Aided Design) instructions for creating 3-D-Printed Guns.

It’s something many pro-freedom people anticipated, and something Reason’s Brian Doherty explains with great alacrity.

Writes Doherty:

In a case that was already moot in the colloquial sense of the term if not the legal one, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided yesterday that an attempt by various states to stop the federal government from not restricting certain computer files can go no further. So for now, CAD files that can help instruct certain devices to make weapons at home can be legally spread into the public domain.

As Doherty notes, the decision was issued on April 27, was called “State of Washington, et al. v. State Department” and superficially pertains to federal versus state jurisdiction based on previous federal action protecting the freedom of people to disseminate CAD files for gun-printing.

What triggered the states to want to interfere in federal decisions was the result of a resolution in 2018 of a lawsuit from Defense Distributed, a company dedicated to the spread of gun-making software, founded by 3D weapon entrepreneur and provocateur Cody Wilson. In settling a case challenging their restrictions on such files, the government agreed to remove them from the control of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) (set by the State Department).

Doherty explains how the states tried to maintain the illusion that any government could stop the spread of the files:

The states pretended they were fighting for public safety against the threat of computer-assisted homemade gun making. But their efforts were, at their core, an attempt to make the government continue constitutionally questionable policies restricting the free spread of information in the form of certain computer files, even though that information is obviously free to be spread through other means. For example, gun-making instructions in a book would obviously be legally protected expression.

And this kind of political attack on not only free speech but on the content of that speech – specifically, the programming to instruct 3-D printers to build limited-use, polymer gun parts – might remind folks of why the American rebels fought the battles of Lexington and Concord when British soldiers came for their guns and cannons.

Related: Rep. Jackson Lee’s Anti-2A Bill Would Create a Mandatory Federal Gun Registry...And Way More

Collectivists fear people who can defend themselves and want to block any means Americans might have to circumvent unconstitutional and immoral gun restrictions.

Writes Doherty:

(A) district court had earlier issued an ‘order granting the motion of 22 states and the District of Columbia to enjoin [the State Department's] final rule removing 3D-printed guns and their associated files from the U.S. Munitions List.’

But this new ruling nixes that lower court move, and Doherty offers us toe final two nuances to the Ninth Circuit panel decision. First…

As (the panel) decision explained, ’The government used that broad discretion back in 2018 to shift control of the computer files in question from ITAR to CCL [Commerce Control List] under Commerce authority, and final rules regarding them were promulgated in January 2020.’

And, perhaps most important for those who try to maintain the right to keep and bear arms…

As the 9th Circuit wrote, ‘Congress precluded judicial review of both the designation and undesignation of items as defense articles…The texts of both the Control Act and Reform Act demonstrate Congress's intent to preclude judicial review of both the DOS and Commerce Final Rules.’ Thus, ‘because both the DOS and Commerce Final Rules were unreviewable, the plaintiffs had not demonstrated the requisite likelihood of success on the merits, and therefore, a preliminary injunction was not merited. The panel remanded with instructions to dismiss.’

Which means that, as with all rights, the right to keep and bear arms via 3-D printed guns, as well as the right to freely share their designs, are still at risk. All the Ninth Circuit panel said in its written opinion from Judge Ryan D. Nelson was that the states could not block the sharing of the CAD files because Congress said the files could be shared.

How sweet...

Despite what Joe Biden might say about rights, the existence and legitimacy of human rights are not dependent on what “Congress” does, or says, or what any bureau or agency or “court” of people in robes says. Rights preexist and preempt the state. Rights are God-given and inherent, equal, within all men. No man in government can judge or legislate or threaten (all government is based on threatening people) the rights of another man without committing a fundamental, existential, metaphysical crime. Period. As 17thCentury British Leveller Richard Rumbold said, in part, before being led to the gallows in 1685, and as Thomas Jefferson later paraphrased,

I am sure there is no man born marked of God above another, for none comes into the world with a saddle upon his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him.

Thus, in many ways, this ruling is a lesson. It is a lesson in seeing how the feds might, at any time, change their position and add another attack on our rights to speech and self-defense. It is a lesson in how little the bureaucrats and politicians care for the Constitution – a text that strictly prohibits this attack. And it is a lesson in recognizing that court rulings serve as reminders of the layers of government that have been set up to distract us from recognizing our fundamental rights.

Regardless of whether this was a positive ruling, regardless of the positive change the feds made in 2018 to “allow” the dissemination of CAD files, we have a right to peacefully share information and to own firearms.

The rights must stay paramount – in practice, and in the mind.

Related: Missouri County Nullifies Federal Gun Statutes, Outlaws Enforcement Of 2A Infringements