Trump Asks Judge Not to Block Access to 3-D Gun Instructions

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration on Wednesday urged a federal judge not to stand in the way of public access to blueprints for making guns using 3-D printers.

Arguing there’s no legal basis for the State Department to block availability of the instructions on the internet, and no need for such regulation, the government’s position would allow people to make plastic guns at home, bypassing stores and rules and background checks.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia are suing the administration, arguing the downloadable firearms will be untraceable and easily available to criminals and terrorists.

The State Department said the states “misunderstand” limits on its authority to prevent the harm they warn against. Unless the technology or weapons at issue pose a threat to national security by falling into the hands of foreigners, the government argued, it’s up to other federal agencies and states to regulate them.

“The domestic harms about which plaintiffs are allegedly concerned are not properly regulated by the department under current law,” the government said in a court filing. Federal law already prohibits firearms that can’t be detected by metal detectors and x-ray machines, it added.

Gun Code

On June 29, the State Department arrived at a settlement allowing Austin-based Defense Distributed to post instructions for printing firearm parts. The group’s founder, Cody Wilson, argued in court that the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee gave him the right to upload the computer code containing gun-printing instructions.

The states sued to block the settlement. U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik agreed on July 31 to temporarily block the blueprints from going public. President Donald Trump said in a Twitter post the same day he’d already talked to the National Rifle Association about the issue.

“I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public,” Trump said. “Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Lasnik is scheduled to hear arguments Aug. 21 on whether to extend his order until the litigation is resolved. The states argue the Trump administration violated federal law by arbitrarily excluding the firearm designs from U.S. export controls.

The case is State of Washington v. U.S. Department of State, 18-cv-01115, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (Seattle).

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.