3D-printed guns: 8 states sue Trump administration for an emergency ban

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/Techhnews

Eight US states have just sued to stop the distribution of plans for 3D-printed weapons. But it may already be too late.

A multistate lawsuit, filed Monday afternoon, seeks to block a federal government settlement that would give the public access to downloadable plans for 3D-printed weapons.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, in announcing the lawsuit, said that Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia had signed on.

“These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history,” Ferguson said in a statement.

Separately, 20 state attorneys general — including those from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state, as well as the District of Columbia — sent a letter (PDF) to the State Department and the Department of Justice, asking them to immediately block the 3D-printed gun plans from appearing online.

Here’s the letter in full:

President Trump’s response

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump weighed in. “I am looking into 3-D plastic guns being sold to the public,” Trump tweeted. “Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

In 2013, Cody Wilson, founder of weapon designer Defense Distributed, debuted the world’s first 3D-printed gun. Two years later, Defense Distributed, which was joined by a gun rights organization, sued the State Department over the forced removal of the instruction manuals from the internet.

But last month, the State Department agreed to waive its prior restraint order against Wilson and Defense Distributed, allowing them to freely publish designs and other technical files, according to a press release from the Second Amendment Foundation. In the meantime, Wilson has reportedly been stockpiling new weapon designs, as well as working on a computer-controlled mill known as the Ghost Gunner that can automatically make functional AR-15 rifle parts out of a block of aluminum.

The State Department said it settled with Defense Distributed and SAF because the issues raised in the lawsuit won’t be relevant to it in the near future when the Department of Commerce takes over the responsibility of regulating exports and manufacturing of commercially available firearms.

In a tweet Monday, Wilson said, “I am now being sued by at least 21 state attorneys general.” 

“We are prepared to litigate,” Wilson said in an emailed statement to Techhnews. “The American people have the unquestionable right to access this information.”

In the legal complaint, released Monday afternoon, the states argue that once the 3D-printed weapon plans have been published to the internet on Aug. 1, it will be “a bell that cannot be unrung.”

But it turns out that Defense Distributed actually rang that bell before the lawsuit was filed. In an email, Wilson said he had uploaded the plans to the website on July 27 and that they were already available to download. Defense Distributed was initially planning to make the files available on Aug. 1.

Sure enough, Techhnews was able to download copies of plans for one gun from the website.

Wilson said his site was IP-blocked in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles, meaning visitors with IP addresses in those places can’t easily reach it. He also said the site had “been under attack” but that he was working on it.

You can read the full complaint below:

First published, July 30 at 2:39 p.m. PT.
Updates, 6:03 p.m.: Adds the lawsuit has now officially been filed; July 31 at 8:18 a.m.: Includes response from Trump.
Correction, July 31 at 10:18 a.m.: Clarifies that eight states are suing and 20 states are protesting.

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