Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation have joined forces to sue the State Department on First, Second, and Fifth Amendment grounds. They contend the the State Department through its Directorate of Defense Trade Controls misused ITAR regulations to force Defense Distributed to take down its files for the Liberator pistol among other items. The State Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as far back as 1978 had said that the use of ITAR to impose prior restraint on “privately generated unclassified information in the public domain” violated the First Amendment.
The big guns are being brought to bear on this fight. Lead counsel is Alan Gura. The legal team also includes Prof. Josh Blackman of South Texas College of Law who has published on this topic in the Tennessee Law Review and attorneys from the global intellectual property firm of Fish & Richardson (no relation!). Fish & Richardson just happens to be the top intellectual property firm in the United States by all rankings.
The complaint can be found here.
The Second Amendment Foundation has more on the lawsuit below:
SAF Sues Feds Over Censorship Of 3-D Firearms Printing Information
BELLEVUE, WA – The Second Amendment Foundation today joined Defense Distributed of Austin, Texas, in filing a federal lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry, the Department of State and other federal officials, seeking to stop the Government’s unconstitutional censorship of information related to the three-dimensional printing of arms.
The Government’s restraint against the publication of this critical information, under the guise of controlling arms exports, violates the First Amendment right to free speech, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and the Fifth Amendment right to due process, the lawsuit alleges.
SAF and Defense Distributed seek to publish 3-D printing information at no cost to the public. Constitutional attorney Alan Gura of Gura & Possessky leads the litigation team, which also includes William “Tommy” Jacks, Bill Mateja, and David Morris of Fish & Richardson; export control counsel Matthew Goldstein, and constitutional law Professor Josh Blackman.
“Americans have always been free to exchange information about firearms and manufacture their own arms,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “We also have an expectation that any speech regulations be spelled out clearly, and that individuals be provided basic procedural protections if their government claims a power to silence them.”
The lawsuit asserts the defendants are unlawfully applying International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to prevent the plaintiffs from exercising in free speech on the Internet and other forums. ITAR “requires advance government authorization to export technical data,” the complaint asserts. There are criminal and civil penalties for violations, ranging up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million per violation.
Defense Distributed generated technical information on various gun-related items, which it published on the Internet. But it removed all the files from its servers upon being warned that it “may have released ITAR-controlled technical data without the required prior authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), a violation of the ITAR.” In June 2013, Defense Distributed submitted various published files to DDTC for review of a machine called the “Ghost Gunner.” In April, DDTC said the machine does not fall under ITAR, but that software and files are subject to State Department jurisdiction.
“Defense Distributed appears to be caught in what seems to be a bureaucratic game of merry-go-round,” Gottlieb said. “The right to keep and bear arms includes the ability to acquire or create arms. The government is engaging in behavior that denies the company due process under the Fifth Amendment. We’re compelled to file this action because the bureaucracy is evidently playing games and it’s time for these agencies to behave.”
Just think, if Hillary Clinton had hung around a little longer at the State Department, the suit could have been titled Defense Distributed et al v. Hillary Clinton et al!
UPDATE: This case has caught the attention of the New York Times and Wired. I’m not surprised by Wired but the Times is a bit surprising. They note that Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed have a “high-powered legal team” and quote another First Amendment expert as saying this lawsuit is “not frivolous”. Hmm.
Sebastian also has some more on the case here.