• Using First Amendment to Defend the Second Amendment

    September 21, 2015 // 7 Comments »

    Cody Wilson, who created computer code that will allow someone to 3-D print a handgun, is trying now to use the First Amendment’s right to free speech to assure his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

    And he has to sue to the U.S. Department of State to do it.

    A Plastic Gun

    3-D printing allows the use of plastics and some metals to create three dimensional objects, using an off-the-shelf “printing device” and computer code. You can create the code yourself if you are smart like Cody, or you can buy and download the code from a smart guy like Cody if you are not as smart. The printer takes that code and builds up the object, layer-by-layer (watch it work.) The tech is amazing, and is even being used now on the International Space Station to fabricate spare parts on demand.

    Two years ago Cody posted online what is believed to be the world’s first computer code to create a 3-D printable gun. Wilson’s files for what he called the Liberator, a single-shot pistol, were partly a statement about freedom in the digital age and partly an assertion of his Second Amendment rights.

    Enter the State Department

    A few days after the plans for the Liberator were put online, the State Department ordered Wilson to remove them, threatening him with jail and fines for breaking rules on the export of military data.

    State informed him that by posting his files online he may have violated a complicated set of federal regs, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which seek to prevent the export of sensitive military technology. The regulations are pretty heavy stuff, aimed at stopping the export of classified military hardware, weapons of mass destruction, that sort of thing.

    It is unclear that the intent of the regulations was something to do with 3-D printing of a single shot handgun. It appears that, in panic, the Federal government looked through its books for a way to stop people like Cody, and could not come up with anything else without violating the Second Amendment. Hence, the call to the State Department to step in as pseudo-law enforcement.

    Note also that no terrorists have been stopped. Wilson removed the code from the web as ordered, but not before it was downloaded 100,000 times. It thus exists forever in cyberspace. And while Wilson is no doubt a clever lad, he is not the first/last/only person to know how to program a 3-D printer.

    Wilson Fights Back

    Wilson’s first move against State was to spend two years and thousands of dollars on lawyers to him file paperwork to comply with the ITAR regulations. State, for its part, took no action on Wilson’s case (Wilson’s attorneys claim State is obligated to issue a ruling in 60 days and just did not.) The State Department also did not respond to Wilson’s queries that it has no authority to regulate his actions inside the United States, where he believes the Second Amendment applied.

    And so Wilson moved to the next step, filing suit via his company in May against the State Department, claiming that its efforts to stop him from publishing his plans amount to a prior restraint on free speech.

    Basically, Wilson is trying to use the First Amendment to protect the Second. Pretty sure that is a first.

    Wilson’s initial response from the judiciary was not warm. In August, a district judge denied a preliminary injunction against the State Department’s order, stating that any potential violations of Wilson’s Constitutional rights did not outweigh the public interest. Wilson filed an appeal to that decision and the case will be next heard by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.


    Regardless of one’s thoughts on weapons, the issues here are Constitutionally significant, testing the depth of the First Amendment in the face of ever-expanding technologies, as well as the balance between individual rights and public good. The latter test has always been how the courts have judged limits on free speech (“shouting fire in a crowded theatre.”)

    This one has Supreme Court written all over it.

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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Post-Constitution America

    It’s the Guns, but It isn’t Just the Guns

    May 28, 2014 // 22 Comments »

    The killings in Isla Vista by one misogynist thug represent a terrible loss of life, most killed with a gun. Of course people can die so many ways, and the Isla Vista murderer managed to stab three people to death and run one down with his car. Still, the focus is and should be on the quickest, easiest way and thus most dangerous way to kill a lot of people: guns.

    Joe the Plumber

    Enter Joe the Plumber. You remember Joe, right? He was a pathetic, semi-employed, non-union plumber from Ohio that pathetic Republican candidate for president John McCain plucked out of a pathetic crowd in 2008 and tried to make a pathetic campaign meme out of. Working man, pull up by his bootstraps, that old garbage. Joe (which isn’t even his real name) had a few minutes of faux-fame alongside the other sideshow to that freakish campaign, Sarah Palin, and both more or less crawled back into the mud from whence they came. Or should have.

    For reasons quite unclear, people still feed and diaper Joe the Plumber, interview him, and perhaps even listen to him. And for a reporter desperate for some new angle on America’s latest mass murder, what better to do than look up ol’ Joe for a comment. Here’s what Joe said:

    I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: [sic] As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights. But the words and images blaming “the proliferation of guns”, lobbyists, politicians, etc.; will be exploited by gun-grab extremists as are all tragedies involving gun violence and the mentally ill by the anti-Second Amendment Left.

    I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those.

    Second Amendment

    Leaving aside the simple insensitivity of speaking that way to grieving parents whose kids were just murdered by a loon allowed to own multiple handguns and carry 400 rounds of ammunition in his car, my hat’s off to Joe for turning a tragedy around and making it all about him. Classy.

    In addition, though Joe likely don’t read no much no more, the Second Amendment is about the only part of our Bill of Rights that hasn’t been gutted post-9/11. Right to privacy? Ask the NSA. Freedom of speech? Check with jailed Occupy people. Right to a fair trial? How’s that going Chelsea Manning? Nope, nobody is grabbing any guns Joe. Repeat after me: It. Is. All. In. Your. Head. Now stop mixing oxy and vodka shots, ‘Kay?

    What Joe missed was the chance to decry how “nothing could have been done about this.” Yeah, sure, the cops checked the shooter out ahead of time, but, well, they didn’t search his house or look at his social media as if he were, you know, a brown Muslim. And those reports about him being mentally ill. Well, sir, that’s no crime either.

    What could have been done? How can we as a nation reconcile this terrible tragedy with what Joe the Plumber had to say?

    America as No. 1

    To start, it is sadly clear America has a lot of mass shootings. 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States. In second place is Finland, with two entries. Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country. It seems to be getting worse: there have been at least 21 during the last six years. School shootings seem an American speciality. The number of such incidents in the U.S. was only one less than in the next highest 36 countries combined. Americans die from violence in general, and gun violence in the specific, at higher rates than pretty much anywhere outside of actual war zones.

    It’s the Guns, but It isn’t Just the Guns

    There are many other countries where guns are abundant. There are also examples of mass murders by the mentally ill around the world. But it seems that the two only collide with, well, such violence, in the United States. For Joe the Plumber, Joe, relax. No one is going to take your guns away. Americans will continue to be able to purchase whatever kinds of firearms they wish, in any quantity, and with any amount and type of ammunition. The nation barely even throws gun control lip service any more, even after (another) mass shooting.

    The Second Amendment long ago swerved so far from the Founder’s intent, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” that it no longer seems to exist within today’s context of the Bill of Rights. The confluence of huge corporate interests represented by the NRA, carpetbagging politicians owned by the NRA and frightened people protecting their own fears ensures this amendment alone will forever stand untouched. The guns are not going away.

    So that leaves us. Why are we so violent? Why, after a workplace slight or a turn-down by a woman, is the go-to move for too many Americans to pick up a gun and slaughter unrelated and innocent people? I hate to end this way, but I don’t know why. I want some sort of gun control, but I know while it is necessary, it won’t be sufficient. I wish I knew why. I wish I knew.

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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Post-Constitution America


    December 14, 2012 // 29 Comments »

    I normally in this space have a lot to say. Sometimes it is a lot to say about important things, sometimes it is a lot about nothing.

    I am at a loss at the deaths of children and their caretakers in Connecticut. Another crazed gunman. Another mentally ill man whose solution was murdering innocents, using the weapons of war we sell on the Internet to literally anybody in America. How many this year? The Aurora Batman guy, the Oregon guy, who can keep track?

    Obama is, pardon, dead wrong. Today is the day to talk about gun control, though yesterday would have been better. Gun control won’t solve all problems, no law can. But when faced with horror like this you start, you do something goddammit, you don’t shed a tear and cluck your tongue and change the channel. For God’s sake– for our children’s’ sake– we have thrown out most of the Bill of Rights in the name of a phony war on terror, why can’t we interpret the Second Amendment in light of our present day?

    You can love your children, or you can love your guns more. We as a nation have gone, quite simply, insane. May God help us, because we obviously have no interest or desire to help ourselves.

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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Post-Constitution America

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