Cody Wilson, a former law student, made headlines recently when he developed the world’s first 3D-printed pistol and then shared the blueprints online, where they were downloaded over 100,000 times in just two days. Now, Wilson finds himself at the center of a federal dispute over gun rights and the ownership of information that allows the manufacture and distribution of firearms.
From The Guardian:
“The suit poses knotty and novel questions to the courts, [Gene] Policinski [of the First Amendment Center] said. “Is it just the sharing of data and information, and the government will have to prosecute people who use it? Or is it more analogous to distributing parts, since the only purpose of the code is to create a device and produce the parts?
“The essence of this will be, ‘Is sharing of information controllable?’” he continued. “Would we restrain the blueprints of a machine that would make a machine that could be exported and regulated? How far back into this do you go? And if you talk about world trade as we are here, US regional law only extends so far. What’s practical?”
Implications for Gun Trusts
But the invention of Wilson’s 3D-printed gun also raises questions for those involved with gun trusts.
A gun trust is generally created to make it easier to own, share, and bequeath firearms within a family. The trust becomes the official owner of weapons restricted by the National Firearms Act (NFA). Since the trust is not a human individual, it does not have to go through the same fingerprinting and other bureaucratic processes as an individual owner. Meanwhile, anyone listed as a trustee may use or possess the weapons owned by the trust – and if one trustee passes away, others listed as trustees or beneficiaries may keep the weapons in the family.
Gun trusts were created to address the onerous regulations demanded of the National Firearms Act and other laws on the owners of certain weapons. A gun trust may also be able to address uncertainties related to the ownership of self-made 3D-printed guns as well.
Although federal laws currently do not prohibit individuals from making their own guns for personal use, changes in the law may demand registration, paperwork, taxes, and fingerprinting similar to the NFA’s current requirements for weapons like short-barreled shotguns. If so, a gun trust may be able to make owning 3D-printed weapons – and passing them down to the creator’s descendants – easier.
Many questions remain, however. For instance, in the Wilson case, federal agencies targeted not the printed gun itself, but the information shared on the Internet, including the gun’s blueprints. Official concerns also centered around the ownership of printers that work in plastic or metal and that can be used to make firearms – as well as a wide range of innocuous objects.
An attorney who knows gun trusts well can help answer your specific questions and develop a personalized solution. Call the estate planning attorneys at ILP for insight at (800) 827-7784.