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State Dept. tells plastic gun creator to take blueprints off website

U.S. officials have told the Texas creator of a plastic gun that was made from a 3-D printer and successfully test-fired last weekend to take down online blueprints for the weapon.

The move by the State Department, under its authority to review arms exports, followed the posting of an online video by Defense Distributed showing a demonstration of its handgun, the Liberator. The gun, which looks like a water pistol but fires a .380 caliber bullet, was almost entirely made on a printer that can fabricate solid objects from blueprints. A regular nail was used as a firing pin.

Cody Wilson, a founder of Defense Distributed, an Austin nonprofit corporation, said he had complied with the government request, but that he and his attorneys were reviewing their options and talking to a number of organizations that support open-access to information about challenging any ongoing ban.

In the case of the Liberator, the State Department’s request came after 100,000 downloads of instructions on how to make the gun. Those plans have since been uploaded to file-sharing sites beyond the reach of the U.S. government.

“This is just the beginning of the attempt to regulate these distributed technologies,” said Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas who describes himself as a libertarian opposed to government control. He called the test-firing of the plastic weapon outside Austin an “ideological victory.”

The emergence of 3-D printing, a technology still in its infancy and relatively expensive, has already begun to raise questions about whether governments can, or should, attempt to regulate the private manufacture of “printed” guns. These weapons are also potentially undetectable during standard security screenings at airports and other locations – a threat that has begun to alarm some lawmakers.

Two New York Democrats, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Steve Israel, have said they will push for new legislation to outlaw the manufacture of 3-D plastic guns.

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