The battle over online blueprints of 3D-printed guns began in 2013 when Texas-based Defense Distributed posted blueprints of a 3D-printed pistol. Before the US State Department stepped in ruling that Defense Distributed was violating International Traffic in Arms regulations, more than 100,000 copies were downloaded. Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation retorted by suing the government for obstructing free speech.
The case bounced around a few years until in 2018, an agreement was reached between the Trump administration, the US State Department, and Defense Distributed. The decision reached allowed Defense Distributed to continue sharing its firearm files (You can read about it in my blog, “Gun Violence: One Print Job at a Time”).
The day before the “ghost guns’” were to go on sale, a Seattle judge granted a temporary restraining order to block sales. That temporary ban was quickly extended after a lawsuit was brought forth by a number of state attorneys general.
Apparently not ready to give up, the Trump Administration finalized a new rule that transferred the regulation of 3D-printed guns from the Department of State to the Department of Commerce. According to a press release shared by New York AG Letitia James, "loopholes in Commerce regulations mean the agency will lack the power to regulate 3D-printed guns in any meaningful way -- effectively allowing their unlimited distribution.”
States quickly joined again. In January, 21 attorney generals filed a multi-state lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s ruling.
Our gun laws are already too weak. Isn’t it bad enough that a traditional firearm can be purchased in most states without a background check?. 3D-printed guns would just create another loophole through which prohibited individuals can easily obtain guns. Furthermore, “ghost gun” files would allow anyone, including felons, to download gun specifications, including AR-15s, and then manufacture unregistered and untraceable firearms. Since you can make them yourself, there would also be no background check required. And, they will just become better and cheaper over time.
We all must insist that our leaders do everything possible to combat the threat of 3D firearms.
The 21 attorneys general involved in the case represent Washington (where the lawsuit was filed) California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and the District of Columbia.