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3D-printed gun blueprints ban extended by judge until case is resolved

The 3D printed .380 handgun, "DD Liberator." (Justin Pickard/Flickr)
August 28, 2018

Another legal blow has been dealt to the online publication of downloadable blueprints for 3-D printable guns.

A U.S. judge in Seattle extended the temporary restraining order against the Trump Administration, which was filed by 19 states and the district of Columbia, the Associated Press reported Monday.

District Judge Robert Lasnik decided in agreement with the 19 states to extend the order, which blocks the agreement by the U.S. Department of State that permitted Texas-based organization Defense Distributed to post the 3-D blueprints online.

“It is the untraceable and undetectable nature of these small firearms that poses a unique danger,” Lasnik said in his decision, which will last until the case is resolved.

“Promising to detect the undetectable while at the same time removing a significant regulatory hurdle to the proliferation of these weapons — both domestically and internationally — rings hollow and in no way ameliorates, much less avoids, the harms that are likely to befall the states if an injunction is not issued,” he added.

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The states asserted that the untraceable plastic guns could be used by felons or terrorists, and put the general public at risk of danger. They also argued that the State Department strayed from the law by removing 3-D guns from the prohibited munitions export list without notifying Congress and enacting a 30-day waiting period.

A U.S. Justice Department lawyer argued against the restraining order, noting that the possession of 3-D printed plastic guns is already illegal, and the law will be enforced by the federal government. Judge Lasnik wasn’t convinced, however.

“While the court appreciates the earnestness with which this commitment was made at oral argument, it is of small comfort to know that, once an undetectable firearm has been used to kill a citizen of Delaware or Rhode Island or Vermont, the federal government will seek to prosecute a weapons charge in federal court while the state pursues a murder conviction in state court,” Lasnik said.

After a multi-year lawsuit with Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson, the State Department quietly reached an agreement to permit Wilson to publish the blueprints online. They were scheduled to go online August 1, but anti-gun groups and state attorneys scrambled to block the blueprints and effectively stalled their publication for the past four weeks.

Critics of the 3-D guns assert that the untraceable “ghost guns” will be widely available to terrorists and criminals. However, 3-D printed guns and components are detectable by the Transportation Security Administration airport security screeners.

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Additionally, 3-D printers cost over $5,000 and require expensive, high-quality plastics to print functional firearms that won’t shatter upon use.

Several members of Congress have vowed to halt the publication of the blueprints.

While at-home assembly of firearms remains legal, it is illegal to sell such weapons or carry them onto aircraft.