TRENTON, N.J. (CN) – Reloading in a court battle over the dissemination of 3D-printable firearms, gun-rights activists brought a federal complaint Tuesday against New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
“With a torrent of civil and criminal enforcement actions, Grewal is conducting a censorship campaign that expressly targets Defense Distributed’s publication of digital firearms information and expressly targets its audience,” the complaint states. “If anyone dares to share the information deemed illicit, Grewal swears that he ‘will come after you.’ This state official wants so desperately to abridge the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms that he will do so by blatantly abridging the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.”
Represented by the Houston law firm Beck Redden and attorneys at Hartman & Winnicki in Ridgewood, N.J., the 62-page complaint offers a riff on the “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” argument.
“Digital two- and three-dimensional models of physical objects can also be used as part of an object’s fabrication process, but digital models do not fabricate objects,” the complaint states. “People do.”
Among other arguments, Defense Distributed casts Grewal’s cease-and-desist orders as Orwellian. The “1984” author who coined the phrase Newspeak for language manipulation meanwhile might look twice at Defense Distributed’s rebranding of its weapons blueprints as “digital firearms information.”
Other than “fabrication” and “product visualization,” according to the complaint, the blueprints can be used for parametric modeling and heat studies.
The gun-printing controversy first took root in 2012 when Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson designed and successfully tested a .380 plastic pistol. Wilson was almost immediately inundated by government demands that he take down his blueprints for the weapon or face prosecution under the International Trade in Arms Regulations.
Wilson countered with his own lawsuit, stating his blueprints were little more than code, which was protected as free speech.
Tuesday’s lawsuit in New Jersey follows the dismissal of an earlier suit Defense Distributed brought in Texas against Grewal, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and several other attorney generals who had cracked down on digital firearm data distributors.
After the Jan. 31 dismissal the company wrote in a post online: “We are considering all options and will most likely lead the fight in new and multiple jurisdictions. Over the coming months we will recount the compounded, interstate legal cowardices that have produced this multi-year litigation against one modest non-profit effort in Texas.”
Wilson resigned from Defense Distributed last year meanwhile after charges were filed against him for allegedly paying a 17-year-old girl for sex. Texas prosecutors indicted Wilson on those charges last month.
Defense Distributed nevertheless remains one of the leading proponents of gun blueprints, and even has a public library in Austin, Texas, devoted to the craft.
Grewal sued the company in chancery court after a cease-and-desist letter he sent in July failed to do the trick.
The attorney general has also set his sights on CodeIsFreeSpeech.com, a San Francisco-based website created by the gun rights groups that has been republishing the blueprints.
The website has the slogan: “Information is code. Code is free speech. Free speech is freedom.”
In addition to alleging constitutional violations, Defense Distributed in its lawsuit Tuesday takes aim at a law New Jersey passed in November that criminalizes distribution of certain digital firearms information.
The group says the law was “enacted for the purpose of discriminating against and censoring Defense Distributed and [Second Amendment Foundation’s] members, in particular.”
As proof that it is being targeted, Defense Distributed recalls how Governor Phil Murphy spoke about the cease-and-desist letters when signing the bill.
Defense Distributed says the cease-and-desist laws and the new law have caused it to avoid certain trade shows, rein in its email advertisements and otherwise curtail its otherwise legal activities.
Leland Moore, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, declined to comment.
In Tuesday’s suit Defense Distributed is joined by co-plaintiffs Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Firearms Policy Foundation, The Calguns Foundation, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, and Brandon Combs, a New Jersey-based member of the Second Amendment Foundation.