A hot potato: The argument over whether someone has the right to publish gun designs for 3D printers has been raging for over five years now. Opponents say allowing 3D-printed gun plans to go online will allow bad actors access to "undetectable" firearms. Proponents say restricting the publication of such designs is a violation of the First Amendment.
A federal judge in Seattle, Washington has blocked gunmaker Defense Distributed from publishing plans for its 3D-printed guns. The ruling extends a temporary injunction that was issued last month after several states brought suit against the designs’ distribution. The decision prohibits Defense Distributed from releasing its plans until a lawsuit over the issue has been settled.
The fight goes back to 2015 when the Department of Justice threatened to prosecute Defense Distributed owner Cody Wilson for distributing 3D printer plans for his pistol the “Liberator.” His lawyers sued the State Department claiming that it was infringing Wilsons First Amendment rights. The government saw the logic in the argument and backed down this year in early July, stating that he was entitled to publish the plans, as long as he did not sell them.
“Today's decision is an unqualified success for the American public and, indeed, the global community.”
However, this decision did not sit well with several states’ attorneys general. Washington state’s AG Bob Ferguson and eight other jurisdictions brought suit against Defense Distributed seeking an injunction to halt the publishing of the gun designs. The original action included Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York, and Washington DC. Since then eleven more states have signed on to the lawsuit including California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
The states argue that the Department of Justice did not “follow the correct procedure” in making changes to the US Munitions List when it settled with Defense Distributed. United States District Judge Robert Lasnik ruled today that the argument had merit and extended the preliminary injunction against the distribution of the designs.
“Today's decision is an unqualified success for the American public and, indeed, the global community,” said co-president of the Brady Campaign Avery Gardiner in a press statement. “3D-printed guns represent a supreme threat to our safety and security, and we are grateful that Judge Lasnik recognized it as such.”
Defense Distributed attorney Josh Blackman told Bloomberg they would be reviewing the judge’s decision and deciding what options are available moving forward.