A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday against Defense Distributed, the Texas organization that promotes 3D-printed guns, in a lawsuit that it brought last year against the State Department.
In a 2-1 decision, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was not persuaded that Defense Distributed’s right to free speech under the First Amendment outweighs national security concerns.
The majority concluded:
Ordinarily, of course, the protection of constitutional rights would be the highest public interest at issue in a case. That is not necessarily true here, however, because the State Department has asserted a very strong public interest in national defense and national security. Indeed, the State Department’s stated interest in preventing foreign nationals—including all manner of enemies of this country—from obtaining technical data on how to produce weapons and weapon parts is not merely tangentially related to national defense and national security; it lies squarely within that interest.
As Ars reported in February 2016, the lawsuit, Defense Distributed v. Department of State, centers on whether a website that publishes CAD files—which would enable foreigners outside the US to print a firearm—violates munitions export laws. Fearing a possible lawsuit by the State Department or prosecution by the government, Defense Distributed took the files down three years ago, but they have since reappeared on BitTorrent sites.
Previously at the district court level, Defense Distributed filed a motion for preliminary injunction, which would have allowed it to restore those files and even publish new ones. The appeal was meant to …