Massie Defends Gun Group’s Free Speech Case

December 22, 2015—Remember Cody Wilson? Libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) wants to refresh your memory.

thomas_massiebrief filed by the Kentucky congressman along 14 other of his colleagues, Massie sides with the plaintiff in the Defense Distributed v. US Department of State.

In early 2013, the Department of State invoked the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) to order Defense Distributed to bring down its public 3D printable gun files from the Internet.

At the time, the government claimed Cody Wilson’s Defense Distributed had violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulation.

On May 6, 2015, Defense Distributed filed a Constitutional challenge against the State Department in the Western District of Texas, claiming the government violated the company’s First, Second, and Fifth Amendment liberties. The lawsuit received little attention from the media, but Massie has been paying close attention.

In Massie’s amicus brief, congressmen show their concerns regarding the proper interpretation of the constitution. It starts by stating:

“Members of Congress have a particular interest in seeing that federal statutes are properly interpreted and implemented. Moreover, Members of Congress are bound by oath to support and defend the Constitution. Thus, this Court’s interpretation of the First, Second and Fifth Amendments—as well as this Court’s decisions construing the reach of the foreign commerce clause—are at the core of Amici’s duties and responsibilities.”

The document continues by urging the court to avoid stifling innovation:

“Representative Thomas Massie, of Kentucky—an MIT-trained engineer and inventor—is a Member of the Committee on Science, Space & Technology. His views are particularly relevant because the State Department’s improper and unconstitutional interpretation of federal law is likely to chill scientific and technological advancement in the United States.”

According to Massie’s amici, the State Department’s actions are not only harming Defense Distributed’s First, Second, and Fifth Amendment rights, they are also giving the agency powers that were never granted by the actual law.

The amici continues:

“[AECA] says nothing about the regulation of domestic public speech. Rather, the statute authorizes the President, ‘[i]n furtherance of world peace and the security and foreign policy of the United States . . . to control the import and export of defense articles and defense services and to provide foreign policy guidance to persons of the United States involved in the export and import of such articles and services.’…

This straightforward statutory language does not permit the State Department to ban the domestic publication of unclassified public speech through its current expansive interpretation of the word ‘export’ and application of ITAR…..The word ‘export’ in particular, which is the entire basis of the State Department’s position, simply cannot be stretched to mean domestic publication with incidental receipt by foreign persons….

… [The State Dept’s order]captures purely domestic discussions between Americans in America simply because those discussions were undertaken by means of the internet rather than on paper, or orally, or by any other method. To interpret ‘export’ to mean ‘publish on the internet to the general public’ simply does not comport with the common meaning of the word.”

The amici ends with the following note:

“Chilling the speech of actors like Defense Distributed by imposing export controls on them that were never meant to apply domestically will slow innovation in the United States and leave the field to other countries.”

Congressmen who signed the amici along Massie include:

Representatives Brian Babin (R-TX), K. Mike Conaway (R-TX), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), John Fleming (R-LA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Walter Jones (R-NC), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Steve King (R-IA), Raúl Labrador (R-ID), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and Daniel Webster (R-FL).

Do you agree that Defense Distributed should be free to share its public 3D printable gun files? Let us know what you think!

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