WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Representative Thomas Massie and 14 members of the House of Representatives filed an amicus brief to Defense Distributed v. United States Department of State in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
The attorney for the plaintiff is Alan Gura, who successfully argued McDonald v. City of Chicago and Heller v. District of Columbia before the U. S. Supreme Court. The brief is intended to advise the appellate court and support the plaintiff’s case.
“We expect the Court to recognize that the State Department exceeded the authority granted to it by Congress and violated the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution,” said Rep. Massie. “If the State Department’s violations are allowed to stand, it could have dramatic implications for free speech on the Internet.”
In June 2013, Defense Distributed, a Texas non-profit committed to defending the right to bear arms, made technical information about 3D-printing of legal firearms available for free on the Internet. The State Department forced the company to withdraw the posted information, citing the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), a U.S. law which bans export of sensitive information.
Defense Distributed sought an injunction against the State Department in 2015, claiming the ban violated the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.
A Texas district court denied the injunction, but the company has appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The amicus brief was filed in support of the appeal.
Rep. Massie and the other co-signers of the brief argue that the State Department’s interpretation of export regulations exceeds the authority in the foreign commerce clause of the Constitution.
The foreign commerce clause allows regulation of trade with other countries, but it does not allow regulation of free speech within the United States. The co-signers also assert that the State Department’s interpretation of the export regulations will stifle American innovation as well as free speech.
In addition to Rep. Massie, House co-signers include Duncan (R-SC), Gosar (R-AZ), Webster (R-FL), Labrador (R-ID), Conaway (R-TX), Rokita (R-IN), Farenthold (R-TX), Posey (R-FL), Miller (R-FL), Babin (R-TX), Jones (R-NC), King (R-IA), Fleming (R-LA), and Kelly (R-PA).
To read the amicus brief, click here.