I’ve questioned New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal‘s intelligence and sanity since he sued a California company last year under the novel legal theory that a nonexistent New Jersey law applies to a California gun parts seller. I blame the lead in New Jersey’s water for the Attorney General’s impairment.
enact rules to weaken federal oversight of certain firearm-designing software files, which would make it easier for anyone with access to such files and a 3D printer to create a gun.
If that press release accurately reflects the suit, Silicon Valley, every professional engineering association, machinist, and every company using PLC in the world will come down on his head.
Wait. I stand corrected: I can’t really think of anyone a suit of that nature won’t annoy.
That is because his statement conflates CAD software, device control files, additive manufacturing (3D printing), and both computer numerical control (CNC) and manual milling. The rule change he is challenging relates to only “digital firearms files,” but he describes restrictions on the very software that can generate those files, justifying it by citing non-3D printed 80% lowers.
He specifically calls out computer aided design (CAD) software:
The multistate coalition, which expects to file its suit later this week, is opposing new rules that would remove from the U.S. Munitions List software and technology that enables the design and production of certain firearms.
At least he also mention the “digital firearm files” he’s allegedly concerned with:
With digital firearm files, anyone with a computer and access to a 3D printer – including minors, convicted felons, domestic abusers and the mentally ill – can make a working gun.
And he needs to block the software and files because of non-3D printed “80%” lowers and frames:
In June 2018, Attorney General Grewal sent cease-and-desist letters to “ghost gun” companies across the United States, ordering them to stop advertising and selling partially-built firearms,
Grewal has zero grasp of the technologies, and has confused several elements. If he were to win a lawsuit aiming to do what this statement purports, he will seriously impede far more industries than home firearm building.
CAD software is the program used to design something. It can be used to design a firearm (manufacturers use it) or a smartphone, or anything. In the ’90s, I used to do medieval armor design (for the Socienty for Creative Anachronism) with CAD. The CAD program can then render that design into a device control file. Or, as I did, print paper patterns to be traced ont sheet metal.
The device control file — be it for a firearm or spangenhelm Viking helmet — is fed to the device that makes the part. That device could be an additive 3-D printer or a CNC mill (like a DefDist GhostGunner mill).
Additive 3D printing, as generally used by home hobbyists, slowly builds up a part with dabs of molten plastic. At the current state of materials technology, it tends to make substandard firearms because it lacks strength. Cody Wilson’s original Liberator was so bulky and blocky because he had to seriously over-build it to keep it from exploding.
Home 3-D printers are really better for building a plastic model with which to make a mold for convention metal casting, or — if you really want a plastic gun — injection-molding with a material like nylon.
Milling is making a part by removing material from a block. A mill could be CNC, requiring a control file; a manually operated mill; or some guy with a hand file and drill finishing an 80% lower or frame, no digital files needed.
Grewal conflated all of these in his statement.
If he gets the export limits he wants on CAD software, he’ll darn near shut down every industry which uses it. No more downloaded software updates for AutoCad. Boeing, for example, would not be happy; aircraft are hard to design without working CAD. Nor would New Jersy’s manufacturing industry.
His lawsuit is pointless so far as limiting New Jersey access to device control files anyway. Under current export rules, all a company has to do to allow downloads is add an address verification step so downloads can’t be made from outside the US. Under federal rules, NJ residents can still download them.
Also, the files have been in the wild for years. Even before federal Judge Lasnik shut down DefDist’s downloads, the files had been downloaded worldwide over a hundred thousands times, and mirrored on servers across the planet, forcing the technologically-challenged AG to play whack-a-mole every time he finds another download site.
And none of this would address people finishing 80% lowers by hand, or even casting their own lower from scrap aluminum (yes, people do that; check YouTube).
People have been making firearms by hand for nine hundred years. The cat was out of the bag long before Columbus discovered America. Banning software and reducing American industry to a pre-computer level won’t stop that.