WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced today that he joined a coalition of 21 Attorneys General suing the Trump Administration to stop it from allowing 3D-printed gun files to be released on the internet. These files would allow anyone to 3D-print unregistered, untraceable firearms. These untraceable firearms, sometimes called “ghost guns,” can be very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors. The Trump administration previously attempted to allow the release of instructions and plans for 3D printed guns but was blocked by a federal judge as a result of a multistate lawsuit. Now, the Administration has finalized new rules that would permit the release of these files and a coalition of attorneys general is once again filing suit.
In 2015, Defense Distributed, an organization dedicated to global distribution of open-source, downloadable 3D-printed guns, sued the Obama administration after the U.S. State Department forced the organization to remove plans for guns from the internet. The federal government successfully argued that posting the files online violates firearm export laws and poses a serious threat to national security and public safety. Then, in an abrupt reversal, the Trump administration settled the case on June 29, 2018. As part of the settlement, the Trump administration agreed to allow unlimited public distribution on the internet of the downloadable files for 3D-printed guns.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson and a multistate coalition filed a lawsuit July 30, 2018. On Nov. 12, 2019, Judge Robert Lasnik ruled that the Trump administration’s decision to allow the files’ distribution was arbitrary, capricious and unlawful. “Given the agency's prior position regarding the need to regulate 3D-printed firearms and the CAD files used to manufacture them, it must do more than simply announce a contrary position,” Judge Lasnik wrote.
After losing in court, the Trump administration is trying again, this time by publishing new rules that would transfer regulation of 3D-printed guns from the State Department to the Department of Commerce, effectively allowing their unlimited distribution. However, due to loopholes in the Commerce regulations, the agency will lack the power to regulate 3D-printed guns in any meaningful way.
The upcoming lawsuit will assert that the rule is unlawful for similar reasons as the previous effort. The administration has still offered no evidence supporting their about-face on the risks of allowing unregulated access to firearms worldwide, meaning that the rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). In providing public notice of the rule, the administration mentioned other changes to regulations for small firearms, but not the changes to 3D-printed guns. That failure to provide meaningful public notice also violates the APA.
A copy of the complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/Downloadable-Guns-Complaint.pdf
AG Racine joins Washington AG Bob Ferguson who leading the lawsuit, and the Attorneys General of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Vermont.