Defense Distributed’s 3D printed gun, The Liberator. Photo by Vvzvlad/Wikimedia Commons

Defense Distributed’s 3D printed gun, The Liberator. Photo by Vvzvlad/Wikimedia Commons

Washington leads legal challenge banning access to 3D printed guns

The AG’s office plans to file a lawsuit blocking a website from disseminating digital firearm files.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Monday that he would spearhead a multi-state legal challenge against the Trump administration for allowing the unlimited dissemination of 3D printed guns. The weapons are mostly composed of plastic, can’t be traced, don’t require background checks, and go undetectable in airport security.

The lawsuit set to be filed Monday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington argues that the administration’s June 29 settlement allowing the public to print 3D firearms violates the Tenth Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act, which regulates rule-making processes. A legal challenge will cite the lack of evidence that the U.S. Department of Defense approved of the decision, and that Congress was given 30 days notice. The settlement resolved a 2015 lawsuit filed by Defense Distributed—an open-source organization that distributes digital firearm blueprints—which sought to overturn the U.S. State Department’s ban on downloadable instruction manuals for developing digital firearms.

The lawsuit also seeks a temporary restraining order to prevent the federal government from lifting control over the distribution of the instruction manuals, and to stop Defense Distributed from posting downloadable gun files online, as the Texas company plans to do on August 1. In a prescient note on its website, Defense Distributed announced: “The age of the downloadable gun formally begins.” Maryland, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and New York joined the lawsuit.

The legal quagmire began in 2013 when the State Department ordered Cody Wilson, the owner of Defense Distributed, to stop posting online manuals for building 3D-printed guns. In its order, the U.S. State Department cited Wilson’s possible violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulation, which controls the export of military technology. Wilson sued the federal government two years later, but the lawsuit remained in litigation until last month. Several jurisdictions including the City of Los Angeles and New Jersey have sought injunctions against the website from making blueprints available to their residents following the June settlement. On Sunday, Pennsylvania successfully blocked Defense Distributed from sharing digital firearm files online in the Commonwealth. Unlike the other challenges, the federal lawsuit set to be filed Monday would trigger a nationwide temporary restraining order.

At a press conference on Monday, AG Ferguson argued that allowing the public to digitally manufacture weapons goes beyond disagreements in policy. “Honestly for god’s sake, when it comes to something as basic as public safety, our State Department has said this is a giveaway to terrorists,” Ferguson said. He expressed faith that the lawsuit would be successful, citing the office’s 7-0 track record of winning lawsuits filed against the Trump administration. Ferguson’s office will ask the court to hear the matter immediately.

Renée Hopkins, CEO for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said at the Monday press conference that an injunction is needed on digital files for 3D printed guns, which would “completely undermine our system.”

“It would make our state less safe, put Washingtonians in more danger, and make it much harder for law enforcement to determine the origin of guns used in crimes,” Hopkins said. According to Public Health Seattle and King County, 130 deaths people die annually from gun violence in the county.

At the press conference, Mayor Jenny Durkan stressed the likelihood of undetectable and untraceable firearms flooding the market if the state doesn’t prevent it. While she was a U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, the digital manufacturing of firearms plagued the Obama administration: “on a scale of 1 to 10 of things we worried about, this is an 8 or a 9,” she said.

Seattle’s Chief of Police Carmen Best noted that over 700 guns have already been removed from the city’s streets this year. “If people have the ability to download these guns arbitrarily, the danger to the public is going to be so immense, it’s beyond what I can even describe here today,” Best said.

Defense Distributed put the files online a few days earlier than advertised on July 27, and 1,000 people had already downloaded the plans for creating semi-automatic assault rifles by Sunday, according to the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “We are working as fast as we can,” said Washington Assistant Attorney General Jeff Rupert. “This company has put forth a number of models that were previously known, but there could be an infinite number of additional ones that nobody downloaded so far. So we’re trying to monitor what it is.”

Ferguson said that the lack of awareness on the digital files currently available underscores the need for a federal judge to halt all websites from distributing downloadable gun files immediately.

mhellmann@seattleweekly.com

More in News

Federal Way unifies in prayer

“Unity in Prayer” service raises $10,000 for Multi-Service Center.

President’s emergency declaration sparks immediate legal backlash

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his team will sue the White House if federal funds originally intended for Washington state are interrupted.

Moms create autism art walk to benefit special needs classrooms

Autism Auction and Art Walk happens Feb. 24 in Federal Way.

Courtesy photo by Why Not You Foundation
                                Russell Wilson and Ciara unveil the limited edition King County System Library cards that feature them and their dreams Friday at the Tukwila Library. The new library cards coincide with the newly launched DREAM BIG: Anything is Possible campaign.
Russell Wilson and Ciara launch DREAM BIG campaign

Partnership with King County libraries dovetails with scholarship program for local students.

Bill targets sexual health curriculum in Washington schools

Senate Bill 5395 is co-sponsored by 17 Democratic representatives and introduced by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline.
Study shows King County’s treatment funding is making progress

A document on the county’s .1 percent health sales tax was accepted Wednesday by the county council.

Federal Way mayor gets firsthand glimpse of homelessness

Federal Way mayor, Mirror staff volunteer at men’s overnight homeless shelter.

Children’s play area at Seadrunar. Photo by Lauren Davis via Facebook
Seedy side of Seadrunar: Drug rehab center accused of neglect, exploitation

Public records reveal that Seattle facility was accused of neglecting children and clients in its care.

Founder of Everyone for Veterans, Theresa Cheng helps Alice Richard deliver a mattress to a veteran family in Federal Way as part of the Wingman Project in Dec. 2018. Photo Courtesy of Everyone for Veterans.
Actions speak louder than words; Everyone for Veterans is making an effort to help low-income veterans and their families

Non-profit organization connects community members with veterans through their wingman project

Most Read