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Defense Distributed, of 3D-Printed Gun Fame, Requests Rehearing on Denial of Its Injunction Against the State Department for Crushing Its Free Speech Rights

by Brian Doherty | Reason.com  |  Published on November 8, 2016

In September, as Scott Shackford reported, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to enjoin the State Department from censoring the American organization Defense Distributed. The Department back in 2013 threatened them with prosecution for hosting computer files that instruct 3D printers to make a plastic pistol, one the company calls “The Liberator.” Defense Distributed have since then complied with the department’s demand.

Provocateur and author Cody Wilson, who runs the organization and built and fired the first 3D-printed plastic pistol (I profiled him in a Reason feature in 2013), believes that State Department threats to treat hosting such files as the equivalent of exporting illegal munitions amount to a prior restraint violation of their First and Second Amendment rights.

His arguments are detailed in my May 2015 reporting on the launch of his lawsuit against them and a variety of specific officials involved in defense-related trade controls. (The Second Amendment Foundation is also a plaintiff in the suit.)

Defense Distributed’s legal team, including Alan Gura (who has won two substantial victories for the Second Amendment at the Supreme Court), filed on Friday a petition to the Fifth Circuit for an en banc rehearing (before the entire Court, not just a three-judge panel) of the injunction request.

The original panel declared that since:

National security might be permanently harmed while Plaintiffs-Appellants’ constitutional rights might be temporarily harmed strongly supports our conclusion that the district court did not abuse its discretion in weighing the balance in favor of national defense and national security.

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