Minnesota joins multistate lawsuit to block 3D gun files

Cody Wilson
Cody Wilson, with Defense Distributed, holds a 3D-printed gun called the Liberator at his shop in Austin, Texas, in August 2018.
Eric Gay | AP

A move by the Trump administration to allow 3D-printed gun files to be released on the internet would make it easier for terrorists and criminals to access weapons, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Thursday in filing a multistate lawsuit trying to block the data.

The lawsuit, joined by Minnesota, California, New York and 16 other states, was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Ferguson said a previous multistate lawsuit led a federal judge last year to strike down the administration’s earlier attempt to allow the files to be distributed.

The states had sued to stop an agreement that the government had reached with Austin, Texas-based Defense Distributed, saying felons or terrorists could acquire guidelines on how to print undetectable plastic guns. Now, Ferguson said, the federal government is pursuing formal rules that would allow such files to be made public.

“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.

The Texas company had sued the Obama administration in 2015 after the State Department forced it to remove the files from the internet. Obama administration lawyers said posting the files online violated firearm export laws and threatened public safety. But in 2018, Ferguson said, the Trump administration settled the case, and agreed to allow internet distribution of the 3D-gun files.

On Thursday, the Trump administration published rules to transfer oversight for the export of certain firearms from the State Department to the Commerce Department. In a statement, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper said they are designed to reduce the regulatory burden on American firearms and ammunition makers and to promote exports. Cooper said the guidelines also prioritize national security.

But attorneys general for the states again suing Trump say the new rules try to avoid oversight and remove downloadable gun files from the State Department’s munitions list.

"We successfully challenged the Trump administration’s first reckless attempt, and we will continue to fight against this latest attack on the safety of our communities,'' California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

In addition to Minnesota, Washington, California and New York, the states suing are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia as well as the District of Columbia.

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