A federal judge on Monday blocked the release of blueprints for 3-D printed firearms online, ruling in favor of more than a dozen attorneys general who argued their publication increases the threat of gun violence across the country.
The Seattle court order effectively criminalized publication of the gun design files, banning Texas-based company Defense Distributed from posting them on the Internet.
The decision presents a new hurdle in the company’s fight to make weapon-design files publicly available, a case that has sparked a national conversation about the implications of untraceable plastic weapons and constitutional rights.
Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington cited risks to public safety in granting the injunction.
He wrote that the attorneys general for 19 states and the District of Columbia who filed the lawsuit have “a legitimate fear that adding undetectable and untraceable guns to the arsenal of weaponry already available will likely increase the threat of gun violence they and their people experience.” The proliferation of digital weapon files, Lasnik said, “will hamper law enforcement efforts to prevent and/or investigate crime.”
The decision stems from a suit filed July 30 against the State Department, which had agreed to allow Defense Distributed to publish an arsenal of firearms blueprints online in a planned settlement. The states argued that the release of 3-D printable designs threatened national security and abridged their ability to pass and police gun laws.
Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson called the court’s decision “farcical.”
“I’m happy to publicly suffer these clownish indignities to demonstrate how unprincipled the judiciary and different state attorneys general are capable of being when forced to confront an outcome they don’t approve of,” Wilson, who is still involved in four pending lawsuits, told The Post on Monday.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, one of the chief law enforcement officers involved in the suit, lauded the court’s decision: “I’m glad we put a stop to this dangerous policy.”
The contentious fight over weapon-design files dates back to 2013, when Wilson manufactured the first printed handgun. Soon after, he sued the State Department over its demands that he remove blueprints from the Internet. In June, the federal government reversed course and entered into an agreement permitting Wilson to publish his firearm blueprints online. He intended to do so Aug. 1, but hours before publication, Lasnik stopped him.
Wilson’s critics have said his plan could put unregulated and difficult-to-detect weapons in the wrong hands.
Gun-control supporters, such as the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, also argued that 3-D printed weapons — that avoid layers of federal and state gun-control policies, such as permits and background checks — are not “typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes,” and, therefore, are not protected under the Second Amendment.
Monday’s order ignored the Justice Department’s argument accusing the states of exceeding their constitutional powers to restrict a person from sharing information with other Americans.
Other legal experts have focused on the wide-reaching First Amendment implications of barring Wilson from releasing the files. They suggested that prohibiting publication of computer code — which has been available for download since at least 2013, according to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert — amounts to a violation of free-speech rights.