After Pennsylvania went to court Sunday to block files for creating 3D-printed guns from being accessed by its residents, Washington State followed Monday with a lawsuit that 10 states, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, have joined.
The files for making guns with a 3D printer are set to be published online by Defense Distributed by Wednesday, thanks to a State Department settlement ending a years-long ban on their publication — and thrusting the issue into national debate.
In addition, 21 attorneys general signed a letter Monday asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to withdraw from the settlement and prevent the downloads from being made available.
These moves come after Defense Distributed, the Texas nonprofit that generated the printer plans, agreed in federal court in Philadelphia Sunday “to refrain from posting new information and to block all information from being accessed in Pennsylvania,” according to an order from Judge Paul S. Diamond filed Monday morning. The group also had blocked the files in New Jersey after a cease-and-desist letter from New Jersey Attorney General Gubrir Grewal.
Politicians and gun-control advocates have begun mobilizing against the release of the files, which would enable Americans to download and print a working, untraceable gun with a few clicks. In New York, a lawmaker proposing legislation to make it illegal to make such guns without a gunsmith license and require that the guns be detectable by a metal detector, a bill that advocates are eyeing as a model for other states. And according to gun-control group Moms Demand Action, more than 100,000 messages and calls of protest had been sent to the State Department as of July 27.
“If you want your Second Amendment online, THIS is the fight,” Wilson tweeted Monday, including the membership link for his group. He inaccurately said in the tweet that he was being sued by “at least 21 state attorneys general,” but only 10 states had signed on to Washington’s lawsuit as of Monday afternoon; not all the attorneys general who signed the letter signed onto the suit.
A group of Democratic senators also sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday urging him to block the publication of the blueprints. He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday that he would review the decision, according to the letter.
Plastic 3D-printed guns are not traceable and do not have serial numbers. They can get past metal detectors, although they still require regular ammunition made out of metal.
“I have a question for the Trump Administration: Why are you allowing dangerous criminals easy access to weapons?” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson 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. If the Trump Administration won’t keep us safe, we will.”
Advocates are also expecting two bills to be introduced in Congress on Tuesday, said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel for Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Both at the state and federal level, there are significant efforts being made to prepare legislative responses to this,” Skaggs said. “We are working with lawmakers … and are hopeful that there will be some promising legislative responses that will be proposed.”
Defense Distributed director Cody Wilson says it is his constitutional right to distribute the information. On Sunday, he sued New Jersey in a Texas federal district court in response to the cease-and-desist letter, also suing the Los Angeles city attorney, who has urged the State Department to prohibit the release of the downloads.
“Alas these state and municipal officers from across the country cannot veto Defense Distributed’s constitutionally protected and federally licensed speech,” the lawsuit reads.
Now, any user in Pennsylvania who tries to access the blueprints on Defense Distributed’s website receives this message: 451: We’re sorry, but DEFCAD has been blocked in your location. Defense Distributed, the Texas nonprofit that generated the printer plans, agreed “to refrain from posting new information and to block all information from being accessed in Pennsylvania,” according to an order from Judge Paul S. Diamond filed Monday morning.
“These downloadable firearms were just about to be widely available online. It’s an existential threat to our state & we stepped in to stop it. The site is – & will remain – dark throughout PA,” Shapiro tweeted Sunday.
That depends on whether the attorney general can win a permanent injunction in court, which Shapiro’s office has vowed to pursue. He must file an amended complaint and motion for an injunction by 5 p.m. Monday, the judge’s order said.
“Americans have the right to this data,” Wilson said in a Sunday-night interview with The Inquirer and Daily News. “We have the right to share it. Pennsylvania has no right to come in and tell us what we can and can’t share on the internet.”
Wilson has been in a battle with the federal government since 2013, when he first put plans for the guns online and the State Department forced him to remove the files. Since, they have been engaged in a legal battle, Wilson fighting for what he calls his constitutional right to publish the files.
The federal government filed as recently as April a motion to dismiss Wilson’s suit, according to a group of U.S. senators fighting the settlement. But a month ago, President Trump’s State Department reversed course and settled the case, allowing Wilson to make the plans available.
Gun-rights groups called it a victory. The Second Amendment Foundation, which joined the lawsuit with Defense Distributed and announced the settlement, said the settlement also included an acknowledgment by the federal government that certain firearms, including semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15, “are not inherently military.”
“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby,” Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan M. Gottlieb said in a July 10 statement. “For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort.”
Staff writer Tom Avril contributed to this story.