Harvard Law Professor: First Amendment Protects 3D Gun Files

Cody Wilson, with Defense Distributed, holds a 3D-printed gun called the Liberator at his shop, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, in Austin, Texas. A federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday to stop the release of blueprints to make untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed plastic guns. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman suggests the First Amendment protects the sharing of 3D gun files just as it protects the sharing of other information some Americans deem harmful.

Feldman presented his position in a Bloomberg Opinion piece in which he weighed whether speech can be banned simply because it is in an instructional format that can be used to “[tell] people how to commit crimes.”

He wrote:

The best way to think about the question is to ask whether the government should be able to ban “The Anarchist Cookbook” or other works that describe how to make Molotov cocktails or simple bombs. Logically, the answer is almost certainly not. How-to guides for criminal activity aren’t like classified information, such as how to build an atomic bomb or make a biological weapon. The information is widely available and may have legitimate uses.

The value of free speech outweighs whatever benefits may come from making it a bit harder for people to figure out how to make illegal weapons.

Feldman went on to discuss the difficulty of trying to ban code without necessarily banning speech, and he pointed to the untold number of 3D guns that have already been made to show that attempts to stop the process are a little too late.

He wrote, “Government might conceivably have a compelling interest in prohibiting the manufacture of unregulated guns, but there are so many guns already being made that this argument isn’t a sure winner.”

Writing at Fox News, gun scholar John Lott presents arguments which dovetail perfectly with Feldman’s. Lott pointed to a 2001 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision which said, “Communication does not lose constitutional protection as ‘speech’ simply because it is expressed in the language of computer code.”

In light of the Second Circuit decision and other pertinent information, Lott wrote, “Gun control advocates don’t just have a problem with the Second Amendment – they also have real problems with the First Amendment.”

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News, the host of the Breitbart podcast Bullets with AWR Hawkins, and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at awrhawkins@breitbart.com. Sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.

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