WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today filed a lawsuit and sent a letter to stop a Trump Administration effort that makes 3D-printed operable guns more accessible to dangerous individuals. AG Racine and counterparts from several states filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington state and sent a letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to stop changes to federal law that would allow a company to post instructions online for creating dangerous guns using 3-D printers.
“The Trump Administration’s reckless move would effectively eliminate the District’s ability to enforce our gun laws and protect the public,” said Attorney General Racine. “With this rule change, criminals and members of organized crime can easily access online instructions to produce 3D-printed firearms that are untraceable and often undetectable to law enforcement. I’m suing to protect our sensible gun laws and to prevent more needless gun violence in the District.”
The changes to federal regulations would allow the public to download detailed instructions for assembling multiple kinds of firearms. They are part of a settlement that the federal government recently reached in a lawsuit brought by Defense Distributed, an online company that will charge a nominal fee to allow customers to gain access to the instructions. Customers do not have to provide proof of age, a valid gun license or a permit-to-carry number. In 2013, the State Department instructed the company to remove downloadable files for manufacturing firearms from its website; the company then sued. In reaching the settlement, the State Department suddenly reversed many arguments it had asserted throughout the litigation regarding the lawfulness of the company’s actions. AG Racine and his counterparts argue that the settlement will help criminals and create unprecedented risks to public safety, allowing terrorists, transnational criminals, convicted felons, and others to have unrestricted access to computer designs for unsafe, undetectable and untraceable firearms.
The changes would make it much easier for individuals to produce and obtain plastic firearms that shoot real bullets. The 3D-printed firearms are untraceable because they don’t have serial numbers and are often undetectable by metal detectors in places such as airports, government buildings, and schools because they’re made largely of plastic. According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, more than 2,100 firearms used for illicit purposes were recovered and traced in the District in 2017.
Lawsuit to Stop 3D-Printed Firearms
AG Racine joined with Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and seven attorneys general in a lawsuit to stop the settlement’s temporary changes to the United States Munitions List (USML). The rules would allow detailed construction and assembly information about certain military weapons (such as semi-automatic firearms), previously considered critical to national security and public safety, to be uploaded to the Internet. The federal government published the temporary modification to the USML on July 27, and Defense Distributed has stated it will make its 3D printer gun plans available to the public on August 1. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government’s settlement and actions to temporarily modify the USML violate the Constitution’s 10th Amendment and the federal Administrative Procedures Act. The suit asks the Court to declare that the rule change is invalid and enjoin the government from allowing the change to go into effect.
This multistate complaint is at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2018-07/3D_Guns_Complaint.pdf
Letter to Sessions and Pompeo
In today’s joint letter to Sessions and Pompeo, the attorneys general argue that publicly available information on 3D-printed weapons will enable the production of firearms that are untraceable and undetectable. Additionally, unrestricted access to this kind of information will increase illegal trafficking of weapons across state and national borders. The Arms Export Control Act requires the federal government to reduce the international trade of firearms abroad. The government has successfully done this through the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, in part by prohibiting certain technical data about weapons from being made publicly available.
In the letter, the attorneys general also express their serious concern over the State Department’s abrupt change in position on these matters, pointing to arguments the agency and lawyers acting in its behalf have made for years in the challenge brought by Defense Distributed. Until very recently, federal lawyers had argued that the government has a strong national security interest in the regulation of these types of files. The attorneys general also note that courts have previously recognized the risk of allowing these gun designs to be publicly available on the Internet, and urge the administration not to disregard those rulings.
This multistate letter is at: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/07/30/7.30.18%20Multistate%20Letter%20re%203D%20Firearms%20Final.pdf