3D-printed gun blue­print web­site owner sues AG in free speech chal­lenge

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

The man be­hind a web­site de­voted to shar­ing on­line blue­prints for 3D-printed gun is su­ing the at­tor­ney gen­eral of New Jer­sey, af­ter be­ing alerted that the ac­tiv­ity was vi­o­lat­ing a new gun con­trol law.

The law­suit is the lat­est salvo in the fight to pub­lish the plans on­line and chal­lenges a law signed late last year that gun-rights ad­vo­cates say crim­i­nal­izes their free speech rights to post the blue­prints.

“What­ever their claimed mo­tive or agenda is, we know that their ac­tual agenda is the dis­ar­ma­ment of the people of New Jer­sey,” said Bran­don Combs, pres­i­dent of the Firearms Pol­icy Coali­tion. “And if they have to in­fringe speech rights in or­der to red-line the right to keep and bear arms in their state, I think that they’re will­ing to do what­ever it takes to do that.”

Mr. Combs and a coali­tion of gun­rights groups re­cently asked a fed­eral court in New Jer­sey to block At­tor­ney Gen­eral Gur­bir Gre­wal from en­forc­ing the law and di­rect him to stop send­ing cease-and-de­sist mes­sages over the on­line post­ing of the files.

The law­suit, filed this month, says the New Jer­sey law is overly broad. Lawyers ar­gue that it “crim­i­nal­izes speech re­gard­less of its re­la­tion­ship to il­le­gal con­duct.”

Among other pro­vi­sions, the law bans people from shar­ing blue­prints for 3D-printed guns with any­one in the state who isn’t a li­censed firearms man­u­fac­turer.

Mr. Combs said he re­stricted the files on his web­site this month soon af­ter a net­work provider he uses alerted him to a cease-and-de­sist no­tice.

“The web­site is up. The files that were hosted on the site are re­stricted cur­rently, due to the de­mand that we re­ceived,” he said.

The mes­sage di­rected net­work provider Cloud­flare, to delete the files within 24 hours “or we will be forced to press charges in or­der to pre­serve the safety of the cit­i­zens of New Jer­sey,” ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

“This was both a first and a last straw, at least for us,” Mr. Combs said.

Mr. Gre­wal’s of­fice had no com­ment on the law­suit, but pointed to a state­ment the at­tor­ney gen­eral made in July when he an­nounced a sep­a­rate law­suit to try to pre­vent De­fense Dis­trib­uted, a Texas-based com­pany, from post­ing sim­i­lar files on­line.

Mr. Gre­wal said then that the “dan­ger­ous files” would al­low ter­ror­ists and do­mes­tic abusers to print “un­trace­able as­sault weapons” in their own homes.

“Once De­fen­dants open that Pan­dora’s box, it can never be closed,” he said then.

A fed­eral court last year halted De­fense Dis­trib­uted’s plan to post the files on­line, af­ter a coali­tion of state at­tor­neys gen­eral had sued to block them.

But Mr. Combs and other pri­vacy ad­vo­cates have tried to take up the man­tle since then, say­ing the files are pro­tected free speech.

They say they aren’t bound by the court rul­ing, since it put on hold a spe­cific agree­ment De­fense Dis­trib­uted had struck with the State Depart­ment that would have al­lowed the com­pany to start pub­lish­ing the files last sum­mer af­ter years of le­gal wran­gling.

“This isn’t about firearms. It’s about free­dom of speech,” said Alan Got­tlieb, founder of the Sec­ond Amend­ment Foun­da­tion, which is a plain­tiff in the new law­suit.

Mr. Combs said traf­fic to the web­site has been about four times what it usu­ally is in the short time since he an­nounced the most re­cent law­suit.

“Any­time they’re go­ing to threaten prose­cu­tion over a speech is­sue, [this] speech crime that they have now in New Jer­sey, I think that that el­e­vates the ur­gency and the need for the courts to act quickly,” he said.

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