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Feds sound the alarm, warn plastic 3-D guns violate international arms laws

Designs for a plastic gun which can be made using a 3-D printer may breach U.S. arms export laws, the State Department warned.

Officials wrote to Defense Distributed, which posted the designs as part of its Wiki Weapon project, after the blueprints were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

The company "may have released … controlled technical information without the proper prior authorization," reads the letter, posted by BetaBeat, which first reported the story.

The letter says the company should submit its blueprints for a review by officials, to determine if components of the printable gun are covered by the U.S. Munitions List, the catalog of items covered by arms export control law and regulations.

Defense Distributed executive Cody Wilson told BetaBeat that he believes the company is "immune" from the review procedures, but he removed the plans from the website anyway.

"This is a much bigger deal than guns," he said. "It has implications for the freedom of the Web."

Although the plans have been taken off the Defense Distributed website, defcad.org, they are still available on the Internet, including on sites like Pirate Bay which are based outside of the United States and specialize in hosting material that it is illegal to post in other countries.

A State Department spokesman confirmed officials had been in contact with the company, but declined to comment on the specifics of "individual ongoing compliance matters."

Exports of non-automatic and semi-automatic firearms up to .50 caliber are covered by the U.S. Munitions List, according to the department.

"The United States is cognizant of the potentially adverse consequences of indiscriminate arms transfers and, therefore, strictly regulates exports of defense items and technologies," said the spokesman in an email.

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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