In a world where technology is making the unthinkable possible, legislators sometimes find themselves scrambling to keep up. Such appears to be the case with a new, tech-related method of constructing firearms, which could make weapons designs widely available online. In response, nine states are suing the Trump administration for allowing downloadable gun designs on the internet, asking a federal judge to halt their publication.
The blueprints for the guns will allow those with access to certain 3-D printers to assemble certain firearm models at home. These guns are sometimes called "ghost guns" because they are untraceable.
The nine states in question plan to file their suits on Monday, Reuters reports. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said at a press conference that the states will ask a federal judge order an injunction to halt publication of the blueprints, which are scheduled to be available on August 1, according to Reuters.
“I have a question for the Trump Administration: Why are you allowing dangerous criminals easy access to weapons?” Ferguson said in a press release issued by the Washington State AG's office. “These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history. If the Trump Administration won’t keep us safe, we will.”
At the heart of the issue is a settlement reached between the U.S. government and a Texas-based company called Defense Distributed. Back in 2012, Defense Distributed's founder, Cody Wilson, posted blueprints for a 3D-printable plastic pistol online. According to CNBC, those blueprints were downloaded upward of 100,000 times before the website was blocked under the purview of international exports law.
After the site was blocked, Wilson sued the government. This led to the settlement in June, as well as the August 1 date for allowing the schematics to be posted. And now, it has resulted in the impending lawsuits.
It's important to note that printing such guns will require access to 3D printers, which can cost anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase. But that barrier to entry doesn't mean that accessing the appropriate 3D printers will be impossible. Groups of people interested in creating 3D firearms could work together to purchase the equipment, and some 3D printers are increasingly available for public use.
For many lawmakers, the issue at hand is that regulating 3D-printable guns would be extremely difficult, particularly in the short-term, as the public continues to adjust to the budding technology.
That being said, Defense Distributed, and its supporters, appear particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of sharing 3D gun schematics online. "The age of the downloadable gun formally begins," the website's homepage reads, as of Monday.
The group's "About" page describes the nonprofit as a "private defense firm principally engaged in the research, design, development, and manufacture of products and services for the benefit of the American rifleman."
States filing suits on Monday include Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland and New York, according to The Hill. Whether the judge will grant an injunction is currently unclear.