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3D-printable gun blueprints to go public soon

Not long ago it was the stuff of science fiction, but now US officials and lawmakers are grappling with a new reality -- the ability for citizens to print firearms at home. CNN's John Avlon breaks it down.

Posted: Aug 1, 2018 5:01 AM
Updated: Aug 1, 2018 5:14 AM

Federal Judge Robert Lasnik issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday "blocking (the) federal government from allowing distribution of downloadable 3D printed" guns, according to a tweet from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.

"The judge's rule is clear," Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said at a news conference. "We go back to the status quo, before the federal government made the disastrous decision to undo these protections for public safety."

The ruling blocked a settlement that Defense Distributed, a Texas-based gun rights organization, and the federal government reached in June that made it legal to post 3D printable gun plans online.

Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson said the site has disabled downloads until he reviews the order.

The settlement ended a multiyear legal battle that started when Wilson posted designs for a 3D printed handgun he called "The Liberator" in 2013. The single-shot pistol was made almost entirely out of ABS plastic -- the same material Lego bricks are made from -- and could be made on a 3D printer.

Wilson sued the federal government in 2015.

According to spokeswoman Brionna Aho, the judge's ruling does not order Defense Distribution to take the plans for the guns off their website, but keeping them up is again illegal.

"The effect is restoring the status quo before the government took action but (the judge) hasn't technically ruled on the lawfulness of the government action yet."

Ferguson announced Monday he was leading the lawsuit, which originally involved eight states and the District of Columbia. The petition for the temporary restraining order was filed in federal court in Seattle. Iowa and Virginia joined the case on Tuesday.

New York: Release of plans is 'reckless'

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a series of actions Tuesday to prevent the distribution of the 3D gun designs. Cuomo issued a cease-and-desist letter to Defense Distributed to block the distribution of designs for 3D guns in New York. The governor called the impending release "reckless."

Cuomo also directed state police to issue a notice reminding New Yorkers that manufacturing firearms defined as assault weapons is illegal in New York.

"As the nation rises up and calls for action against gun violence, it is absurd and frightening that the federal government wants to make accessing an automatic weapon as easy as hitting print," he said. "New York is proud to have the strongest gun safety laws in the nation, and we won't let this federal government take us backwards."

Cuomo said he will pursue legislation to bolster the state's gun safety laws and outlaw private production of all 3D and so-called "ghost guns" that are untraceable and invisible to metal detectors.

Cuomo's actions came after Pennsylvania went to court Sunday to block early distribution of the plans, which weren't supposed to be available for download until Wednesday. But more than 1,000 designs were downloaded recently, in advance of the agreed upon August 1 date.

At the hearing, Defense Distributed agreed to block Pennsylvania IP addresses for a few days until a more formal hearing could be held.

Josh Blackman, a lawyer for Defense Distributed, told CNN on Monday the Pennsylvania case was about free speech rights, not the manufacture of guns.

"One state cannot censor the speech of a citizen in another state," he said.

Other states also are trying to bar access to 3D printed guns. Iowa and Virginia on Tuesday announced they are joining a federal lawsuit that asks a judge to block the court action that lets people download plans

NRA says plastic guns are illegal

The National Rifle Association said Tuesday that undetectable guns are illegal.

"Many antigun politicians and members of the media have wrongly claimed that 3D printing technology will allow for the production and widespread proliferation of undetectable plastic firearms," said Chris Cox, the NRA's executive director for legislative action.

"Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years. Federal law passed in 1988, crafted with the NRA's support, makes it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive an undetectable firearm."

Cox was referring to the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988.

The statement came hours after President Donald Trump expressed skepticism over the ability to legally download plans for 3D printed guns, saying in a tweet that he's spoken with the NRA about them because the technology "doesn't seem to make much sense!"

Guns range from a Beretta to an AR-15

Do-it-yourself firearms like The Liberator have been nicknamed "ghost guns" because they don't have serial numbers and are untraceable.

On the website run by Defense Distributed, people can download plans for building the Liberator, as well as files for an AR-15-style lower receiver, a complete Beretta M9-style handgun and other firearms. Users also will be able to share their own designs for guns, magazines and other accessories.

The high-end 3D printers needed to make such weapons cost thousands of dollars and may be too expensive for most people. But that doesn't ease the concerns of those who think 3D printed guns are a bad idea.

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