Nine states are suing the Trump administration to stop 3D-printed guns

By Steven Melendez

July 30, 2018

Washington State’s attorney general will lead a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration from permitting the public to download computer files for designing 3D-printed guns, his office said in a statement Monday.


Last month the Trump administration settled a 2015 lawsuit brought by Defense Distributed, a company led by gun rights activist Cody Wilson, after the U.S. State Department forced it to remove materials related to the printable guns from its website under munitions export control laws. Defense Distributed has said it will start making computer-aided design specifications for guns available for downloads on August 1.

“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,” said Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, in his statement about the lawsuit, which is being jointly filed by eight other states. “If the Trump administration won’t keep us safe, we will.”

Critics generally say easily printable guns could allow people to circumvent federal, state, and local gun restrictions by home printing their own weapons with little oversight. Advocates say the files are protected by the First and Second Amendments in the U.S. Constitution.

Ferguson’s office argues that the federal settlement violates the Administrative Procedures Act, since the government didn’t conduct any kind of study or give required notice to Congress before changing its rules on printable weapons. Washington State, which, according to the statement, is joined by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York, and the District of Columbia in the lawsuit, also argues that the settlement violates its constitutional right, under the 10th Amendment, to regulate firearms.

Since he was elected last year, Ferguson has gained a reputation for litigating against the Trump administration, with cases that range from the White House’s travel ban to the erosion of net neutrality to child separation policies. In May, Ferguson sued Facebook and Google for violating campaign laws, and this month forged an agreement with Facebook that would end the ability for advertisers to prevent certain groups from seeing ads.

Defense Distributed promises to “defend our rights”

Monday’s lawsuit isn’t the first to attempt to stop the spread of 3D-printed guns. Defense Distributed agreed to temporarily block people in Pennsylvania from its website, amid legal pressure, and is also involved in separate litigation with the state of New Jersey and city of Los Angeles, the Washington Post reports. The office of Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro claimed that by Sunday, 1,000 people had downloaded plans for AR-15 rifles from the website after they were made available last Friday, earlier than the August 1 date.

Court documents related to the case filed by Washington in a Seattle federal court weren’t immediately available on Monday, though Ferguson’s office said in its statement it would soon make them available. The lawsuit includes Defense Distributed because the company would be impacted by a ruling in Washington’s favor, according to the statement.

“I can only comment when I’ve seen the filings,” Wilson said in an email to Fast Company. “If we are a named party, we will litigate and defend our rights.”