WASHINGTON — Attorneys general in 20 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging a federal regulation that could allow blueprints for making guns on 3D printers to be posted on the internet.
New York Attorney General Tish James, who helped lead the coalition of state attorneys general, argued that posting the blueprints would allow anyone to go online and use the downloadable files to create unregistered and untraceable assault-style weapons that could be difficult to detect.
The lawsuit, joined by California, Washington and 17 other states, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle. It is likely to reignite a fierce debate over the use of 3D-printed firearms and is the latest in a series of attempts by state law enforcement officials to block the Trump administration from easing the accessibility of the blueprints.
Proponents have argued there is a constitutional right to publish the material, but critics counter that making the blueprints readily accessible online could lead to an increase in gun violence and put weapons in the hands of criminals who are legally prohibited from owning them.
Washington state’s attorney general Bob Ferguson said a previous multi-state lawsuit led a federal judge last year to strike down the administration’s earlier attempt to allow the files to be distributed.
“Why is the Trump administration working so hard to allow domestic abusers, felons and terrorists access to untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns?” Ferguson said in a statement.
For years, law enforcement officials have been trying to draw attention to the dangers posed by the so-called ghost guns, which contain no registration numbers that could be used to trace them.
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“Communities throughout our nation are evaluating policies to combat gun violence. The availability of 3D-printed gun files on the internet would directly undermine the ongoing work being done to improve public safety. I will vigorously oppose any action that will make it easier for unregulated, untraceable guns to be brought into our schools, neighborhoods and churches.” – Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul [/perfectpullquote]
A federal judge in November blocked an earlier attempt by the Trump administration to allow the files to be released online, arguing that the government had violated the law on procedural grounds. But the administration published formal rules on Thursday that transfer the regulation of 3D-printed guns from the State Department to the Commerce Department, which could open the door to making the blueprints available online.
The state attorneys general argue the government is breaking the law and say such deregulation will “make it far easier for individuals ineligible to possess firearms under state or federal law to obtain a deadly weapon without undergoing a background check,” according to the lawsuit. They also argue that the Commerce Department lacks the power to properly regulate 3D-printed guns.