ITAR Amendments may cut 3D Printable Gun Models sales

3D Printable Gun models are a hot topic with the advent of high quality 3D Printers becoming readily available to the general public.  Many in federal law enforcement are concerned about the impact to regulatory control of gun manufacturing and the ability for unlicensed production of gun parts and their export to foreign persons (non US Citizens) which would be a violation of the ITAR.

Export Control Reform (ECR)

As part of the President’s Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative, the Department of State has issued a notice in the Federal Register expressing a desire to make changes to the ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). These changes will impact manufacturers and users of 3D printing systems and those interested in distributing files online for both new and old 3D printable gun designs.  It will likely change the legality of sharing most gun-related design files online without fear of legal repercussions from the United States Department of State.

The President is planning and proposing an update to many key definitions within ITAR, namely for the terms ‘technical data,’ ‘required,’ ‘public domain,’ ‘export,’ and ‘reexport or retransfer,’ among others. Additionally, “The Department proposes to create new sections detailing the scope of licenses, unauthorized releases of information, and the ‘release’ of secured information, and revises the sections on ‘exports’ of ‘’technical data’’ to US persons abroad.”

Liberator 3D Printable Gun

In May 2015, Defense Distributed owned by Cody Wilson, filed a suit against the US State Department alleging that his First, Second, and Fifth Amendment Rights were violated upon the government’s request for immediate removal of the files for his Liberator 3D printable gun from the internet two years ago.  Many who believe that Wilson has a strong, but likely tough and drawn out case ahead of him, and Wilson himself agrees that it will be a long road ahead.   That road may be about to get a bit tougher if President Barack Obama and the Department of State get these proposed regulatory changes approved.

The most interesting proposed change is the revised definition for ‘technical data,’ which is outlined in the proposal as follows:

“Paragraph (a)(1) also sets forth a broader range of examples of formats that ‘technical data’ may take, such as diagrams, models, formulae, tables, engineering designs and specifications, computer-aided design files, manuals or documentation, or electronic media, that may constitute ‘technical data.’”

Another revision to the definition of the term ‘required’ in ITAR would basically make any export of information regarding the construction of a particular weapon as serious a crime as actually exporting the weapon itself.  For example a 3D model or drawing of a gun, or the build instructions would be illegal if it is available on the internet via YouTube, forums, social media, or any other method.  Software would also now be considered a ‘defense article,’ meaning that the distribution of 3D models would be regulated under the new proposed ITAR amendment.

3D Printable Gun models

Basically what this means is that if these amendments are made, the posting of such files or information on the internet would be considered the exportation of illegal information, and thus could result in fines in the millions, or even jail time.

These proposed changes stem back from an executive order issued by President Obama on August 17, 2011. The Department of State will now provide 60 days for public comment, which will give you and I until August 3, 2015 to tell them our thoughts on these new proposals. Anyone interested in commenting can do so by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line, ‘ITAR Amendment—Revisions to Definitions; Data Transmission and Storage.’


Anyone who works with guns and gun parts should NEVER POST gun drawings, 3D Models or instructions for building guns or gun parts online.  Doing so may likely be a DEEMED EXPORT and a export violation of the ITAR.

The complete proposal can be found here.

Kevin Gholston

Kevin Gholston

Subject Matter Expert in MIL-STD-810, ITAR & Export-Compliance and Quality including ISO9001:2015, AS9100D and AAR M-1003

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