Loading...
BYH, Donna and kids. I appreciate the gesture, but I really don't like breakfast in bed. It makes me feel like I'm in...

Address the weapon, not its 3D printing plans

3D Guns Lawsuit

Cody Wilson, with Defense Distributed, holds a 3D-printed gun called the Liberator at his shop in Austin, Texas. Eleven states have joined eight others and the District of Columbia in a federal lawsuit that seeks to block a settlement the Trump administration reached with a company that wants to post online plans to make 3D firearms on a printer.

Loading…

Friday, August 10, 2018

The debate over 3D-printed guns blew up last week. Many people rightly see this issue as being about the Second Amendment right to bear arms, it’s also about the First Amendment and free speech.

The plans for a basic 3D-printed gun have been around for a couple of years, but the federal government prohibited online publication. Texas-based Defense Distributed challenged that policy in court. The case dragged on for a couple of years until the Trump administration recently settled. Online publication could start Aug. 1.

That got people’s attention. Americans would quickly fall victim to a rash of plastic gun violence, gun control advocates said. The weapons are untraceable, can pass through a metal detector, don’t have a serial number and can be made by felons. Several state attorneys general sued to have the prohibition reinstated and won a temporary injunction.

Everything those advocates say is true. Allowing people to make unregulated 3D-printed plastic guns will create serious challenges and consequences. However, the stifling of free speech can’t get lost in the mix.

Anyone who really wants a gun without a background check is far more likely to get it at a gun show or illegally on the streets. Real guns are more effective and cheaper than plastic ones that are good for a handful of shots at best and require a 3D printer that costs thousands of dollars. The government must tread carefully when it limits speech. Indeed, permissible limits are few and deal with imminent threats and clear harms. Child pornography, threatening someone and inciting violent insurrection enjoy no First Amendment protection.

The plans for a gun, in and of themselves, make no threat and cause no harm. The danger lies in what people might do with the plans. But free speech does not end because publication of an idea creates a potential hazard. If it did, too many important ideas would be silenced.

Federal courts have long upheld this notion. For example, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in an otherwise distasteful case, “The constitutional protection accorded to the freedom of speech and of the press is not based on the naïve belief that speech can do no harm but on the confidence that the benefits society reaps from the free flow and exchange of ideas outweigh the costs society endures by receiving reprehensible or dangerous ideas.”

An eclectic group of free-speech supporters sided with Defense Distributed in the case. First Amendment champions the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and the Electronic Frontier Foundation joined libertarian-minded groups the Cato Institute and the Texas Public Policy Foundation filing amicus briefs.

Anyone can find plans for bombs and instructions on how to make drugs online. Such documents circulated even before the Internet. Government does not prohibit that speech, but it does prohibit bombs and drugs. Laws target the act, not the words.

If 3D-printed guns are untraceable “ghost guns,” require a state-issued serial number and a piece of metal, as California does, and a gunsmith license, as New York is considering. Congress and state legislatures are not powerless. They can mitigate, though probably not entirely prevent, the danger of 3D-printed guns without trampling the First Amendment.

The Miami Herald

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Editorials

October 15, 2018

Nearly three dozen administration officials have left or been forced out of key posts since President Donald Trump was sworn in last year. Few, if any, will be missed as much as Nikki Haley, who announced her resignation as United Nations ambassador on Tuesday.

For a former South Carolina…

Trump Haley-2

October 14, 2018

It’s the kind of anniversary no one wants to remember. A year ago this past Friday, four inmates at Pasquotank Correctional Institution beat to death four correctional employees in a failed escape attempt.

The brutal murders on Oct. 12, 2017, coming on the heels of the vicious murder of a…

October 13, 2018

It’s sorely tempting to criticize Harnett Central High School Principal Cindy Gordon after she reportedly kicked a student out of a football game for wearing a Donald Trump shirt. But examining this blunder in isolation misses the bigger picture.

The Oct. 5 incident didn’t happen in a…

October 12, 2018

Global progressives are having an anxiety attack over the near-triumph Sunday of Brazil’s conservative presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro.

After years of corruption and recession, apparently millions of Brazilians think an outsider is exactly what the country needs. Maybe they know more…

Braizl Protest-6

October 11, 2018

Mercury is a noxious byproduct of burning coal. It contaminates fish and, in turn, people, leading to brain damage in infants and small children, as well as serious cardiovascular and central nervous system problems in adults. Restrictions on U.S. power plants have substantially reduced their…

ENERGY-POLICY

October 10, 2018

If anything, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a habit of understatement. The U.N. group issues reports so thoroughly scrubbed that they seem cautious in the moment and downright timid in retrospect. That gives their latest and most dire warning added force.

The new IPCC report…

United Nations Climate-15

October 09, 2018

Trying to protect an open internet state by state, rather than by federal law, is a daunting and unwieldy goal.

Unfortunately, it’s also entirely necessary, given that the Trump administration and Congress are more than happy to let internet providers restrict what we — the American…

Net Neutrality

October 08, 2018

Jim Allison lost his mother, a brother, two uncles and a cousin to cancer, but he says he never set out to find a cure for the disease. Like many great scientists, he was driven by “the selfish desire to be the first person on the planet to know something,” as he explained to Houston…

Nobel Medicine

October 07, 2018

“I built what I built myself.”

This boast has long been at the core of the mythology of Donald Trump, Self-Made Billionaire. As the oft-told story goes, young Trump accepted a modest $1 million loan from his father, Fred, a moderately successful real estate developer from Queens, and…

Trump Inheritance Taxes

October 05, 2018

A decade ago, a plan to widen Interstate 95 in North Carolina, and pay for the work with tolls, stoked an angry response that led to the plan’s demise. The image of toll booths turned radioactive. The political pressure was intense, lawmakers sprinted away from it and state transportation…

Tropical Weather North Carolina-26
100 stories in Editorials. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 10
        Next Page»   Last Page»