Backer of 3-D Printed Guns Replaced After Sex-Assault Arrest

(Bloomberg) -- A British-born woman who traded poetry for gun-rights advocacy after moving to the U.S. three years ago has taken the helm at a controversial nonprofit defense firm in Texas after its chief executive officer was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl.

Paloma Heindorff, who left the U.K. in 2015 and is a U.S. citizen, was named CEO of Austin-based Defense Distributed. The company aims to publish gun blueprints online that can be used by personal 3-D printers to manufacture fully functional and untraceable firearms.

Heindorff inherits several high-profile legal challenges, including a lawsuit in Seattle by Democratic-led states and a separate fight with the Trump administration over a botched settlement of an earlier case in Texas.

Orders for mail-delivery of the designs surged after a judge in the Seattle case indefinitely blocked the firm from making the blueprints available for download. Heindorff said Defense Distributed has received about 3,000 orders for designs for 3-D printed weapons, and 1,500 of those have been shipped.

Defense Distributed has been "shipping them out like crazy," Heindorff said Tuesday.

The firm has raised more than $340,000 for its legal defense in online contributions.

Tuesday’s change in leadership will allow Defense Distributed’s outspoken former leader, Cody Wilson, to focus on personal matters, Heindorff said at a press conference that was streamed online. Wilson, 30, was apprehended in Taiwan after a Texas judge issued a warrant for his arrest last week.

Wilson didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

Wilson was accused of paying $500 to have sex with a girl he’d met on the website "SugarDaddyMeet.com," according to court records. Wilson was tipped off to the probe while he was in Taiwan and missed his flight home, police said. He was arrested there last week.

Wilson was released on bail, and a grand jury will now consider the charges against him, the Austin Police Department said Tuesday.

Cody previously defended his company’s quest by saying the online downloads are a natural extension of American’s Second Amendment rights.

"Cody Wilson was the face of Defense Distributed and 3D-printed guns, but we doubt that his movement will die with his resignation," the anti-gun group Brady Campaign said in a statement. "The Pandora’s box has been opened, and it will not go away with Wilson."

The administration of former President Barack Obama argued successfully in court that the manuals for 3-D guns violate firearm export laws. The Trump administration backed that theory until April before reversing course and settling, though Trump has since said that 3-D printed guns don’t "seem to make much sense."

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