Trump Says Guns Created on 3-D Printers Don’t ‘Make Much Sense’

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said guns made with 3-D printers don’t "make much sense" after a group of states sued his administration to block its legal settlement allowing a Texas nonprofit to publish instructions on the internet for making downloadable guns.

Trump said he talked with the National Rifle Association. "I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public," Trump said in a Twitter post Tuesday. "Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!"

The printers would allow people to make weapons at home, outside the normal channels of gun stores and regulations, at a time when survivors of mass shootings have repeatedly criticized policymakers for failing to do more to limit access to guns.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats said they’re introducing legislation that would ban uploading blueprints for the 3-D firearms. They said the release of such files would make it easier than ever for prospective gun buyers to avoid government checks.

A coalition of Democratic attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia said in their complaint filed on Monday that the government violated federal law by arbitrarily excluding the firearm designs from U.S. export controls that have barred Austin-based Defense Distributed from publishing them.

The State Department on June 29 settled with Defense Distributed and gave it the green light to post instructions for printing firearm parts. The group’s founder, Cody Wilson, argued in court that the First Amendment gave him the right to freely upload the computer code containing gun-printing instructions.

The states asked a federal court in Seattle for an emergency restraining order to temporarily bar Defense Distributed from publishing the files as planned starting Aug. 1, a date hailed by the nonprofit’s website as the beginning of the "age of the downloadable gun."

The lawsuit follows earlier efforts by individual state attorneys general and gun-control groups to prevent Defense Distributed from following through with a plan they say is a public safety disaster in waiting. Defense Distributed agreed to temporarily block Pennsylvania internet users from downloading its blueprints after legal threats from that state’s attorney general.

The administration of former President Barack Obama initially argued, successfully in court, that the manuals for 3-D guns violate firearm export laws. The Trump administration backed that theory until as recently as April, the states have said. The states that sued argue that the administration’s about-face also violates states’ rights under the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment.

U.S. Regulations

The U.S. said last week that the export-control regulations are being addressed by proposed regulatory changes that would reassign federal oversight for weapons that don’t give the U.S. a critical military advantage. On July 27, a federal judge in Texas denied a request from gun-control groups to block Defense Distributed from releasing its blueprints.

The GOP-controlled House and Senate are unlikely to act on the 3-D gun legislation anytime soon. The House is out of town until September and the Senate has a busy calendar of spending bills and judicial confirmations.

“It’s the ultimate gun loophole,” said Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, at a news conference in Washington. “Why buy them if you can print them at home instead?”

Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said the firearms are a “direct threat against national security and personal safety.”

Gun-rights supporters began to line up in support of Defense Distributed.

"Even Congress can’t ban 3D printers, the internet, or the 1st Amendment,” Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, wrote on Twitter. “The President certainly can’t. And besides, there’s already a law against undetectable guns."

Under current law, firearms can be built without obtaining a license as long as they’re for personal use and don’t violate the National Firearms Act, which regulates certain guns and accessories, including silencers and machine guns.

Guns purchased through licensed gun retailers are subject to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, designed to prevent certain people from buying guns, such as those with domestic violence convictions. Guns can be made on 3-D printers without any checks.

The NRA and White House released statements late in the day saying it’s against a 1988 law to make or possess guns that don’t set off metal detectors. The Trump administration supports the law, said spokesman Hogan Gidley.

The firearm design from Defense Distributed includes a piece of metal, which should set off a metal detector.

“We continue to look at all options available to us to do what is necessary to protect Americans while also supporting the First and Second Amendments," Gidley said.

Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement that “anti-gun politicians” and the media have
falsely asserted that 3-D printing would allow “production and widespread proliferation of undetectable plastic firearms.”

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