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 (July 31)
The issue of gun control is back in the spotlight – this time with a high-tech twist.
A federal judge’s temporary restraining order aims at blocking plans to upload blueprints necessary for a person to build a plastic weapon in their own home.
Here’s what we know as the legal battle comes to a head over whether 3D-printed plastic guns will become a reality soon in America:
A Texas company had promised to upload instructions at midnight for making 3D-printed plastic guns. What happened?
A federal court in Seattle on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order blocking Cody Wilson and his Austin-based Defense Distribution from uploading plans to make 3D-printed firearms from handguns to AR-15 style rifles. In a related development, Wilson also agreed to refrain temporarily from releasing the plans under a deal reached with the state of New Jersey.
Does that end the issue?
No, both court actions were only temporary, pending hearings in August and September.
So, the information is not available pending those decisions?
Wilson says it is a moot point. He told CNN on Wednesday that he had already uploaded the plans onto the Internet a few days ago. “The ship has sailed,” he said in the interview. “They are public. It is public domain information. It is irrevocable.”
CNN reports that the information has already been downloaded several thousand times.
The Seattle case was brought by eight states and the District of Columbia. Does the judge’s ruling affect all 50 states?
Yes, pending the court hearings. The judge’s order was directed at the federal government, restraining it from enforcing an agreement reached in June that effectively had scrapped an Obama administration decision blocking any such distribution.
Can a gun actually be made from plastic based on the plans?
Yes, but the printers needed to make the guns can cost from $5,000 to $600,000, according to Vice News. The quality of plastic matters, too: An early design printed by federal agents shattered after one shot. A second gun, made from a higher grade resin, stayed intact.
Unlike traditional firearms that can fire thousands of rounds in a lifetime, the 3D-printed guns normally last only a few rounds before they fall apart, experts say. They usually hold a bullet or two and then must be manually loaded. And they’re not usually very accurate.
Why are states opposed to Defense Distribution’s plans?
The plastic weapons would be difficult to detect and, with no serial number, impossible to trace. In addition, since theoretically anyone could make them, there would be no way to control the sale of the weapon to felons, mental patients, terrorists or domestic abusers.
Why is Wilson pressing the issue?
Wilson and his group say there’s nothing illegal about giving the public the information they need to make firearms at home.
“I believe I am championing the Second Amendment in the 21st century,” he said Wednesday in an interview with CBS This Morning. “I think access to firearms is a fundamental human dignity, fundamental human right.”
What is the National Rifle Association position?
The NRA said in a statement that “anti-gun politicians” and some members of the news media wrongly claim that 3D-printing technology “will allow for the production and widespread proliferation of undetectable plastic firearms.”
In truth, “undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s political arm. A federal law passed in 1988 — crafted with NRA support — bars the manufacture, sale or possession of an undetectable firearm.
In addition, Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman for the NRA, argued that efforts to regulate the technology would be “absolutely unenforceable.” The guns were “what the rest of us call freedom and innovation,” Loesch said in a a video segment posted on NRATV.
What is the Trump administration’s position of the guns?
The State Department, responding to a years-long lawsuit against the Obama administration’s 2015 blocking Wilson’s distribution of such plans, agreed in June to lift the ban. It argued that the Obama administration erred in ruling that such action violated a federal law known as International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which covers the export of weapons.
What is the White House position?
Unclear, as White House officials appeared to be caught somewhat off guard by the latest legal maneuvers. In a tweet on Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump said he was “looking into” his administration’s decision last month to clear the way for Wilson’s plans to upload the plans. He added: “Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, noting that it is illegal to own or make a wholly plastic gun, including any made with a 3D printer, says the administration supports that law and “will 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.”
Has Congress weighed in on the issue?
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Richard Blumental, D-Conn., filed legislation that would prohibit the publication of a digital file online that allows a 3D printer to manufacture a firearm. Democrats also filed a separate bill to require that all guns have at least one non-removable component made of metal, to ensure that even guns primarily made of plastic can be discovered by metal detectors.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, blocked a Democratic request to bring the bill straight to the Senate floor, citing First Amendment free speech concerns.
In addition, Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, the second-ranking Republican, said, “People shouldn’t be under the impression they can download this and make an undetectable firearm.”
While Democrats have taken the lead on the issue, at least one Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, has expressed concern over the 3D guns, linking to a news story on the guns in a tweet that said: “Even as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment – this is not right.”
Contributing: Associated Press
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