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U.S. requires group to remove 3-D gun instructions from its website

By Todd Sperry, CNN
May 13, 2013 -- Updated 1451 GMT (2251 HKT)
Defense Distributed, a Texas nonprofit group, posted a YouTube video it says shows the first live firing of a handgun entirely created with a 3-D printer. Defense Distributed, a Texas nonprofit group, posted a YouTube video it says shows the first live firing of a handgun entirely created with a 3-D printer.
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Inside a 3-D printed gun
Inside a 3-D printed gun
Inside a 3-D printed gun
Inside a 3-D printed gun
Inside a 3-D printed gun
Inside a 3-D printed gun
Inside a 3-D printed gun
Inside a 3-D printed gun
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • State Department demands that group remove 3-D gun printing instructions from its site
  • Defense Distributed may have run afoul of International Traffic in Arms Regulations, letter says
  • The group's founder complies but notes that the plans have more than 1 million downloads
  • The Texas group released a video of a shot fired from a plastic handgun

(CNN) -- The U.S. State Department said Thursday it had heard enough from Defense Distributed, the non-profit group at the center of a 3-D gun printing controversy.

The department sent a three-page cease and desist letter dated Wednesday to Cody Wilson, the organization's 25-year-old founder and self-described anarchist, demanding that the group remove instructions for printing a handgun with a 3-D printer from its website.

Earlier this week Wilson posted a video online showing a single shot being fired from "The Liberator," a plastic handgun that, with the exception of a metal firing pin and a piece of metal included to comply with the Undetectable Firearms Act, was assembled entirely from parts made with a 3-D printer.

On the Defense Distributed website, a one-line banner read, "DEFCAD files are being removed from public access at the request of the US Department of Defense Trade Controls." The site had been scrubbed of the documents by Thursday afternoon.

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Wilson later tweeted "#DEFCAD is going dark at the request of the SOS Department of Defense Trade Controls. Some shapes are more dangerous than others."

At issue was whether Wilson had violated International Traffic in Arms Regulations by posting files on his website allowing users to download and print firearms with 3-D printing technology.

"Defense Distributed may have released ITAR-controlled technical data without the required authorization from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, a violation," the State Department's letter to Wilson said.

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Regulations that the government alleges Wilson violated would require approval for the design, development, production, manufacture, assembly, operation, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of firearms including blueprints, drawings and plans, or just about every aspect required to print a gun using a 3-D printer.

The letter also said that Defense Distributed likely didn't get the proper approval to release the technical data it had posted online.

Wilson says he founded Defense Distributed as a non-profit and posted the documents in the public domain.

"I have never had to consult them, so I hadn't," Wilson told CNN by phone.

A State Department spokesperson who declined to be named confirmed that the department had been in contact with Defense Distributed but would not comment further on that particular case. Regulating the export of defense items is a national security issue, the spokesperson said.

Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas in Austin, has made no secret of his disdain for the U.S. government in particular and all governments in general. (Defense Distributed makes and sells components with names like "The Cuomo" and "The Pelosi," to tweak politicians who support gun control).

Wilson told CNN he had complied with the State Department's requests but acknowledges his next step will be to find an attorney who can help him fight for what he believes is a battle about the future of the Internet and the future of information control itself.

"For me, it's important as a symbolic political statement," he told CNN Monday. "And that statement is something like, 'No, the future we imagine is one of personalized manufacture and access to objects. It doesn't matter what the decision is on the Hill ... in this future, people will be able to make guns for themselves.'

But for federal authorities trying to put a stop to 3-D gun files, sharing it might already be too little, too late.

The files have been posted on international servers outside the reach of the U.S. government's authority, and Wilson notes, "(The files) have been downloaded from our website more than 1 million times."

Since Monday, politicians nationwide have moved swiftly to attack Wilson's 3-D guns. Lawmakers in California, the District of Columbia, as well as a handful on Capitol Hill said they intend to fight block 3-D gun printing technology.

CNN's Doug Gross, Emily Schmidt, Elise Labott and Mike Ahlers contributed to this report.

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