U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Judge Extends Block on Plans for 3D-Printed Guns

A federal judge issued an injunction against publishing plans for 3D-printed guns -- again.

After the U.S. State Department said a company could publish the plans on the internet on Aug. 1, the judge issued a temporary restraining order at the request of 19 states and the District of Columbia. They said the plans could lead to felons and terrorists getting undetectable plastic guns.

Judge Robert Lasnik then extended his emergency order, basically saying he had to protect law-abiding Americans. Apparently the threat was imminent, even though the plans were first released five years ago.

First Amendment

Cody Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed, first published blueprints for 3D guns in 2013. They were downloaded 100,000 times before the federal government acted to stop it.

The company sued on First Amendment grounds, and the State Department backed down. The states jumped in, asking for a temporary restraining order.

The judge issued the order, then extended it pending a final resolution of the issue. The plaintiffs say the federal government should have notified Congress 30 days before removing the 3D gun from a list of banned weapons.

The Justice Department argued against the injunction, saying possession of 3D guns is already against the law. A department attorney said the government would enforce that law, but the judge said that assurance wasn't enough.

Undetectable Firearm

"While the court appreciates the earnestness with which this commitment was made at oral argument, it is of small comfort to know that, once an undetectable firearm has been used to kill a citizen of Delaware or Rhode Island or Vermont, the federal government will seek to prosecute a weapons charge in federal court while the state pursues a murder conviction in state court," Lasnik said.

Bob Ferguson, attorney general for Washington state, said the federal government had a dangerous policy.

"But I have to ask a simple question," he said. "Why is the Trump administration working so hard to allow these untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns to be available to domestic abusers, felons and terrorists?"

That question will likely be answered in the court of appeals.

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