A coalition of states is suing the Trump administration in an effort to stop it from making it easier for people to make 3D-printed guns.
Specifically, top law enforcement officials are trying to keep the administration from allowing people to post blueprints online to print what are sometimes called “ghost guns”: unregistered, untraceable firearms that are tough to detect, even with a metal detector.
The lawsuit was filed in Seattle on Thursday. The office for Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in an announcement that the lawsuit has been brought by attorneys general in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
Law enforcement officials have for years been trying to raise awareness of the dangers of 3D-printed ghost guns. One such was used by Eric McGinnis: a Dallas man who was arrested in 2017 after police heard him shooting rounds in the woods.
McGinnis had tried to buy a gun but failed the background check after attacking his girlfriend the year before. When police searched him, they found a partially 3D-printed rifle, along with a hit list that included the names of federal lawmakers.
These things aren’t all plastic
A word about that “partially printed” 3D rifle: the notion of 3D printing will likely conjure images of an end product made entirely from printed plastic. However, most things aren’t made from a single material, and in the case of printed guns, that means printed plastic parts that are joined with essential metal components.
In other words, 3D printed parts don’t need to be the end product: they can, rather, assist in the fabrication of the end product – for example, besides the plastic bits of a printed gun, 3D printing can also assist in rifling the metal barrels.
Thursday’s lawsuit isn’t the first go-round when it comes to suing the government over the sharing of 3D-printed gun plans online. In July 2018, Ferguson led a similar multi-state lawsuit, suing the administration for ”giving dangerous individuals access to 3D printed firearms.”
In November 2019, a federal judge in Seattle agreed with the plaintiffs, ruling that it’s illegal to deregulate downloadable gun files. Besides illegal, it’s also “arbitrary” and “capricious”, Judge Robert Lasnik ruled.
Here’s Ferguson, from Thursday’s press release:
Why is the Trump Administration working so hard to allow domestic abusers, felons and terrorists access to untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns?
Even the president himself said in a tweet that this decision didn’t make any sense – one of the rare instances when I agreed with him. We will continue to stand up against this unlawful, dangerous policy.
Proponents of the administration’s attempts say that it’s citizens’ constitutional right to get at 3D gun blueprints. Hampering the posting of such content would violate the First Amendment protection of freedom of expression, they claim, as well as the Second Amendment’s protection of Americans’ right to keep and bear arms.
Here’s a timeline for the current suit’s genesis and for what the attorneys general say have been contradictory stances taken by the administration:
2015: a gun-file distributor sues Obama administration. In June 2015, the State Department made it plain that it intended to regulate Americans’ publishing of online data that could enable someone to digitally fabricate a gun.
Defense Distributed, a global distributor of open-source, downloadable 3D-printed gun files, sued after the Department of State forced it to remove files from the internet. At the time, the federal government successfully argued that posting the files online violates firearm export laws and poses a serious threat to national security and public safety. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
2018: the government flip-flops. The Trump administration reversed the government’s stance and settled the Defense Distributed case, agreeing to allow unlimited public internet distribution of the downloadable files. A state coalition filed a lawsuit in July 2018. The government lost the case after the Seattle judge said that the administration’s decision to allow the distribution of the files was “arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.”
2019: 2nd try. The administration is now trying again, this time by publishing new rules that would transfer regulation of 3D-printed guns from the State Department to the Department of Commerce. The new rules were made available to the public the week prior to the new lawsuit and were finalized on Thursday, the day the suit was filed.
The states are claiming in this second lawsuit that regulatory change would effectively allow for unlimited distribution of the guns.
The administration itself has admitted that regulating ghost guns is legal. The Department of Commerce acknowledged in the rules that regulation doesn’t violate the First or Second Amendments:
Limitations on the dissemination of such functional technology and software do not violate the right to free expression under the First Amendment. Nor does the final rule violate the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.
The government also acknowledged the dangers posed by the distribution of 3D-printed gun blueprints in the new rules:
Such items could be easily used in the proliferation of conventional weapons, the acquisition of destabilizing numbers of such weapons, or for acts of terrorism. […] The potential for the ease of access to the software and technology, undetectable means of production, and potential to inflict harm on U.S. persons and allies abroad present a grave concern for the United States.
Besides the District of Columbia and Washington state, the suit was filed by the AGs of Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware,Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Vermont.
The Justice Department hasn’t commented on the suit.
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17 comments on “States sue over rules that allow release of 3D-printed gun blueprints”
Alarmist authori6garbage. 3d printed guns are a right that everyone should have.
they would hate to know what i make with my cnc mill….
allow anyone in the world to print out a gun, nope don’t see any problem with that *sigh*
May as well allow printing blue prints for nuclear weapons so we all can have a blast
Facts are: for under $10 you can make a gun at any hardware store. Banning blue prints is a waste of time as if you have a gun, you can copy it. and there are BILLIONS of guns in the US. It’s all just political posturing. On top of all that it is legal to build a single gun for personal use with no government numbers on it. You can’t sell it or give it away outside of immediate family, but it most certainly is not illegal to make or own a “ghost” gun in the US – unless you’re a felon. Which I am not.
Gotta call you out on that “” statement. It’s less than 400 million. But otherwise, you’ve got it all right.
there is far more than 400 million guns in the US lol….
Wrong. Google it.
Those would be just the “known” guns. Guns were not forced to be registered until around 1968 in Chicago (One of the most unsafe and dangerous cities in the US). Imagine all the firearms that are floating around unregistered from before that date. Remember the M-16 was patented around 1964. So google isn’t going to show you much. So I would say you are probably wrong Steve.
Shotgun barrels aren’t generally rifled, with the exception of some slug guns. I’d end the sentence with “…rifling the metal barrels.”
This is a 1st Amendment and 2nd Amendment issue wrapped into one. Blueprints, or g-code, is information, and information is speech. Also, the right of the People to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. Therefore, any law repugnant of the Constitution is null and void (1803 Supreme Court).
“Why is the Trump Administration working so hard to allow domestic abusers, felons and terrorists access to untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns?” LOL The better question would be “Why are the Demo_rats working so hard to allow domestic abusers, felons and terrorists go free and have access to unlimited victims in public, instead of keeping them locked up?”
Fake news / propaganda. Go read everybody. FACT – He didn’t print a gun, he printed the lower receiver after buying a metal barrel, metal upper receiver and a handle. It like saying you 3d printed a car, when you really only printed a plastic bumper, plastic door handle, and got the rest from the junk yard. Lastly, ya you could print ALL from plastic but the first round thru the barrel would likely be your last. After waking up in the hospital (if you wake up) with a missing hand or eye, you’d understand why nobody really 3d prints a gun. Get mad about buying barrels and metal receivers…but don’t pass this PROPAGANDA off that people are printing GUNS. As said before it’s not about guns but knowledge and information they are trying to limit. As said before 1st and 2nd amendments rolled into one.
For an European, it is quite funny to observe the fetish so many US-people have for guns. Also funny is the argumentation with the amendment (which some think can’t be amended (for some reasons)) or the idea that you need the guns to protect yourself against the biggest army in world.
For an American, it is quite sad to observe the fetish so man EU-people have to be a victim. Also funny is the argumentation with the concept of the idea that you can’t protect yourself against random criminals.
It’s too late. These blueprints have already been downloaded potentially millions of times. The instructions to make an upper and lower receiver on a 3D printer can simply be converted to be used in a metal machine shop if it were ever needed to be. They are already in the public. There is absolutely no stopping it. Besides the fact that guns are not a new technology. The first gun was invented in the 13th century. It is an ancient design that anyone can produce with a little knowledge of simple machining tools. Or as the previous poster mentioned basic parts from a hardware store. Gun control is about control. In the US it is a constitutional right. That right will never (extreme emphasis on never here) be infringed. Lest there be another civil war at least in the states. And it will happen if it comes down to it guaranteed. The 2nd amendment is to protect against threats both foreign and domestic. The right to self defense is a given common-sense right. So no, it cannot be amended. The backlash would be insane. Guaranteed. We have seen what simple firearms can do in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and other countries where there continues to be a stalemate. It would be silly to think an armed populace has no chance. If need be a well organize militia can be formed at any time from any able-bodied civilian – That means anyone…. (Which is what a militia is established and comprised of) to take care of government over-reach. This was put in the constitution for a reason. Guns can be used for evil or for good. It depends on the eye of the beholder.