Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


In 1976, Congress enacted the Arms Export Control Act (“AECA”), giving the President broad power to control imports and exports of defense articles. At the time, defense articles included any “technical data” relating to weapons, such as the manufacturing blueprints of a firearm. Generally, this technical data was only in the hands of weapon manufacturers. After forty years of technological advances, however, this “technical data” can now be accessed by anyone in the world in a matter of seconds. Thanks to 3-D printing, a person can use this data to personally manufacture a fully functional plastic weapon within a few hours, for just a few hundred dollars. This same plastic weapon could slip past an airport security metal detector without triggering an alarm. Within a few minutes, a user could melt the weapon down to destroy any evidence of its use. This article explores the limits that the First and Second Amendments place on regulating 3-D printed weapons. Additionally, this article explores how the current regulations would pass a Constitutional challenge based on the First or Second Amendment.

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