Skip to Content
Tech policy

Online distribution of 3-D-printed gun models blocked by federal judge … for now

August 1, 2018

The ruling will halt the uploading of digital gun designs that can assist DIY gun makers.

Some background: In 2013, Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, uploaded on his website the design files he used to create the first fully 3-D-printed gun. Soon after, the US State Department forced him to take the models down. He revealed last month that after a long legal battle, he had settled with the Department of Justice and could now legally share gun models online, citing his First Amendment right to share information.

Not so fast: There was immediate pushback. Attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit to force the Trump administration to stop the sharing of gun plans online. But President Donald Trump didn’t seem too concerned. He tweeted yesterday, “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

But: In the midst of the pushback, Wilson decided to post the models online early in advance of the August 1 deadline he had publicized for their release. Thousands of people downloaded the models in the first few days.

The latest: Yesterday, a federal judge in Seattle granted a temporary nationwide injunction that will prevent the models from being posted online. The judge said lawyers had established “a likelihood of irreparable harm” and that any First Amendment issues could be resolved later. In response, Wilson has taken down his site and models, but he will be continuing the legal fight. A follow-up hearing will be held August 10.

A PR boost: All this attention could help Wilson in the long run. His company, Defense Distributed, creates machines that help DIY gun makers take advantage of the 3-D models he is pushing to release. If he does get legal permission to share the models online after all, he could have a bigger platform on which to sell his manufacturing equipment.

Deep Dive

Tech policy

How the Supreme Court ruling on Section 230 could end Reddit as we know it

As tech companies scramble in anticipation of a major ruling, some experts say community moderation online could be on the chopping block.

The internet is about to get a lot safer

Europe's big tech bill is coming to fruition. Here's what you need to know.

Hyper-realistic beauty filters are here to stay

A new filter on TikTok has the internet up in arms. It's an important debate for anyone who cares about the future of social media.

How China takes extreme measures to keep teens off TikTok

TikTok announced a one-hour daily limit for users under 18, but authorities in China have pushed the domestic version, Douyin, much further.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.