As mainstream social media and other websites roll out a ban on sharing plans for 3D-printed guns, enthusiasts say the lockouts are in vain because the community will always spring up elsewhere, The Trace reports. “Filling me with spite only makes me work harder,” wrote a user known as IvanTheTroll, in a discussion thread about the shutdown at Reddit earlier this month. A number of alternative sites have already emerged, one of which distributes a Glock magazine dubbed the “Menendez mag” after the New Jersey senator who is pushing the major tech platforms to clamp down on 3D gun blueprints.
3D-printed guns, otherwise known as ghost guns, can be manufactured at home from plastics and lack serial numbers, making them virtually untraceable to law enforcement. While printing the guns is legal, some states regulate the process. But the legality of disseminating blueprints for the builds is more precarious. Last year, the Justice Department overturned an Obama-era guidance that prevented the Texas-based Defense Distributed from publishing 3D-printed gun files on its website on the grounds that publication violated the Arms Export Control Act. Days before the company planned to finally publish the files, a federal judge in Washington temporarily blocked their release, agreeing with a coalition of states which argued that allowing the files to be shared publicly would likely cause those states to “suffer irreparable harm.” That litigation is ongoing. Doug Jacobson, an export controls attorney in Washington, D.C., said that until a clear federal determination is made, the files are technically illegal to share online. But he stressed that “while there may be a technical violation, it would be one a prosecutor most likely would not want to enforce, considering by the time prosecution moved forward, the law could be changed.”