Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) on Monday announced his decision to lead a multi-state lawsuit to block the Trump Administration's deal with the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson, which would allow Wilson to publish blueprints for 3-D printed guns beginning Aug. 1.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia joined the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the Trump Administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Tenth Amendment. The states believe the federal government violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the Department fo Justice did not confer with the Department of Defense and provide Congress with 30 days notice before the ruling went into effect. They also say the lack of evidence of those two steps happening also violates the Administrative Procedure Act. The states argue that the Tenth Amendment was violated because their right to regulate firearms was trampled on.
Ferguson requested that a nationwide temporary restraining order go into effect to prevent the federal government from lifting export controls for the tutorials and to prevent Defense Distributed from posting the files online.
Ferguson held a press conference, which was posted on Facebook live, in which he talked about the dangers behind 3-D printed guns. Specifically, he references the lack of serial numbers, background checks and waiting periods as reasons behind the lawsuit.
"The Trump Administration recently chose to give access to potentially untraceable and undetectable firearms to any felon, domestic abuser or terrorist with a laptop and access to a 3-D printer," Ferguson said during his press conference. "Let me be clear: no background checks, no waiting period, no serial number. Some of these 3-D printed guns are made with materials that will not set off a metal detector."
"This decision is unconstitutional, it is unlawful and, frankly, it is terrifying. This unprecedented move is not only disastrous for public safety but undermines our state laws meant to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals," Ferguson said.
The Demand Letter
In addition to the lawsuit spearheaded by Ferguson, the coalition of Attorney Generals penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (emphasis mine):
Dear Secretary Pompeo and Attorney General Sessions:
We, the undersigned Attorneys General, write to express our serious concern about the Department of State’s settlement with Defense Distributed and the proposed rules (83 Fed. Reg. 24198; 83 Fed. Reg. 24166) published by the Department of State and the Department of Commerce to amend the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations. As the Chief Law Enforcement Officers of our states, we believe the settlement terms and proposed rules are deeply dangerous and could have an unprecedented impact on public safety. In addition to helping arm terrorists and transnational criminals, the settlement and proposed rules would provide another path to gun ownership for people who are prohibited by federal and state law from possessing firearms. Federal courts have recognized the danger of allowing these guns to be publicly available on the Internet, and this Administration has abruptly disregarded those rulings. We urge you to withdraw from the settlement and withdraw the proposed rules immediately, and allow full and fair consideration of any future proposed rules on these issues.
We believe the settlement and proposed rules will facilitate violations of federal and state laws, and will make Americans less safe from both domestic and international threats. For example, individuals who access the files posted by Defense Distributed (and similar files posted by others in the future) and use those files will be circumventing laws that regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, and export of firearms. The Arms Export Control Act requires the federal government to reduce the international trade in, and lessen the burden of, arms abroad. Domestically, many of our states have carefully crafted regulatory regimes geared at preventing gun violence and protecting public safety. The Department of State’s abrupt change in position seriously undermines the efficacy of those laws and creates an imminent risk to public safety.
As a result of the Department of State’s settlement with Defense Distributed, terrorists, criminals, and individuals seeking to do harm would have unfettered access to print and manufacture dangerous firearms. Some of these weapons may even be undetectable by magnetometers in places like airports and government buildings and untraceable by law enforcement. Illegal trafficking of these guns across state and national borders could also increase, and self-made, unregistered, and untraceable firearms could easily wind up in the hands of (or simply be produced directly by) dangerous individuals.
The proposed rules would also transfer oversight of certain weapons and ammunition – which have long been considered “military grade” and are currently on the United States Munitions List – from the Department of State to the Department of Commerce. The settlement and proposed rules would facilitate the upload of files and other information sufficient to build unsafe and untraceable guns to the Internet. There would be unrestricted access, domestically and abroad, to large amounts of technical data that had previously been regulated to promote serious national security interests.
We agree with the argument that the Department of Justice and Department of State asserted for years in the lawsuit brought by Defense Distributed, before this abrupt reversal: that the release of these computer files of firearms would threaten national security and put our residents in danger. For example, the Department of Justice wrote in its brief to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, “[t]he computer data files at issue here, if made publicly available without restriction, would allow anyone with a 3-D printer (or related device) to create, at the touch of a button, parts and components for an operational firearm that is untraceable and undetectable by metal detectors. Because such printers are readily available, allowing the distribution of the computer files at issue here is tantamount to permitting the dissemination of firearms themselves.” The settlement and the related proposed rules are inconsistent with the government’s longstanding position and recklessly disregard public safety and security.
These rules, if finalized, and the settlement, if implemented, set a precedent that would endanger the lives of civilians, law enforcement, and members of the armed forces at home and abroad. We urge you to withdraw from the settlement immediately. The status quo – which currently ensures public safety and national security by prohibiting publication of firearm design files on the Internet – should be maintained. Any rulemaking on these issues should not be tied to a specific settlement agreement and should be subject to full and fair rulemaking proceedings, so that all stakeholders may provide input into the rules in the interest of public safety.
The letter was signed by Attorney Generals from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
President Trump took to Twitter to let the public know that he is looking into the issue of 3-D printed guns:
I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 31, 2018
Defendants in the case include Defense Distributed, the Second Amendment Foundation and Conn Williamson.