Judge Temporarily Halts Release of Downloadable Plans for 3D-Printed Guns - NBC Connecticut
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Judge Temporarily Halts Release of Downloadable Plans for 3D-Printed Guns

The suit asked a judge to block the federal government's late-June settlement with Defense Distributed, which allowed the gun group to make plans for printing plastic weapons available online

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    Judge Temporarily Halts Release of 3D-Printed Gun Blueprints

    A federal judge in Seattle has issued a temporary restraining order to stop the release of blueprints to make untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed plastic guns. Sam Brock reports.

    (Published Tuesday, July 31, 2018)

    A federal judge in Seattle has issued a temporary restraining order to stop the release of blueprints to make untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed plastic guns.

    Eight Democratic attorneys general filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the federal government's settlement with a Texas-based gun group that makes the plans available online. They also sought a restraining order, arguing the 3D guns would be a safety risk.

    U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik issued the order Tuesday afternoon.

    The group, Austin, Texas-based Defense Distributed, had reached a settlement with the federal government in June that allows it to make the plans for the guns available for download on Wednesday.

    The restraining order puts that plan on hold for now.

    In the meantime, Congressional Democrats have urged President Trump to reverse the decision to let Defense Distributed publish the plans.

    President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is "looking into" 3D-printed gun sales, a day after eight states sued his administration over its decision to allow a Texas nonprofit to publish downloadable blueprints for a 3D-printed gun.

    The states who filed suit contended the hard-to-trace plastic weapons are a boon to terrorists and criminals and threaten public safety. Trump tweeted that "3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public ... doesn't seem to make much sense!" 

    "No, Mr. President, it doesn't make any sense," Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts said at a press conference Tuesday morning with several of his Democratic colleagues where the lawmakers called on Trump to stop the publication of the blueprints.

    Trump added that he's spoken to the NRA about the issue, a move that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, derided. 

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    "Your administration approved this. What kind of incompetence and dangerous governing is this? And to check with the NRA? Holy moly," Schumer tweeted.

    The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment though spokeswoman Dana Loesch tweeted that the Trump administration "didn't make this happen."

    Democratic Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and David Cicilline of Rhode Island had planned to introduce legislation during Tuesday's U.S. House session that would prohibit the manufacture or possession of 3D-printed guns. 

    Moulton and Cicilline said the plastic weapons would elude detection at most security checkpoints. Moulton, a former U.S. Marine, said access to guns made by 3D printers is a "dangerous step in the wrong direction," while Cicilline called it a "disaster waiting to happen."

    Democratic senators filed similar legislation intended to ban the untraceable, undetectable guns. They would prohibit the online publication of a digital file that allows a 3D printer to manufacture a firearm, and would require that all guns have a significant component made of metal.

    Markey, Schumer and other Democratic senators said that efforts to protect schools, airplanes and other public places from criminals and terrorists would be easily defeated.

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    "It's the ultimate gun loophole," Markey said. "Why buy them if you can print them at home instead?"

    Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that if Trump did not block sale of the 3D guns, "Blood is going to be on his hands."

    They argued that most Americans supported regulations such as background checks, which the so-called "ghost guns" would make impossible. 

    "There should be nothing partisan about this measure," Blumenthal said. "Gun dealers, the NRA, please join us in this effort."

    The suit, filed Monday in Seattle, asked a judge to block the federal government's late-June settlement with Defense Distributed, which allowed the nonprofit to make the plans available online. Officials say that 1,000 people have already downloaded blueprints for AR-15 rifles.

    "I have a question for the Trump Administration: Why are you allowing dangerous criminals easy access to weapons?" Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday. "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."

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    Joining the suit were Democratic attorneys general in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia. Separately, attorneys general in 21 states urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday to withdraw from the settlement with Defense Distributed, saying it "creates an imminent risk to public safety."

    People can use the blueprints to manufacture a plastic gun using a 3D printer. But gun industry experts have expressed doubt that criminals would go to the trouble, since the printers needed to make the guns are very expensive, the guns themselves tend to disintegrate quickly and traditional firearms are easy to come by.

    Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, first published downloadable designs for a 3D-printed firearm in 2013. It was downloaded about 100,000 times until the State Department ordered him to cease, contending it violated federal export laws since some of the blueprints were downloaded by people outside the United States.

    The State Department reversed course in late June, agreeing to allow Wilson to resume posting the blueprints. The files were published on Friday.

    The non-profit filed its own suit in Texas on Sunday, asserting that it's the victim of an "ideologically-fueled program of intimidation and harassment" that violates the nonprofit's First Amendment rights.

    Defense Distributed's attorney, Josh Blackman, called it an "easy case."

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    States are free to enact gun control measures, but "what they can't do is censor the speech of another citizen in another state, and they can't regulate the commerce of another citizen in another state when that commerce is authorized by a federal government license," Blackman said in an interview Monday. "It's a violation of the First Amendment, it's unconscionable and we're going to fight it to the very end."

    The Democratic senators responded that there long have been limits on the right to free speech. 

    Defense Distributed agreed to temporarily block Pennsylvania residents from downloading the plans after state officials went to federal court in Philadelphia on Sunday seeking an emergency order. The nonprofit said it has also blocked access to users in New Jersey and Los Angeles.

    Associated Press writer Lisa Marie Pane contributed to this story.