A coalition of states filed a lawsuit against the State Department in July over a deal they struck with Cody Wilson and his company, Defense Distributed. The deal gave Defense Distributed the go-ahead to publish blueprints for 3-D printed guns which Wilson wanted to post beginning Aug. 1. A judge issued a temporary restraining order against Wilson and his company, which prevented them from posting the blueprints.
The coalition of states and gun control groups, lead by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D), argue that the release of the blueprints are a safety risk. The attorneys for the Trump administration, however, pushed back in court on Wednesday. Their argument is simple: gun control advocates, including those who make up the coalition of states, don't understand the issue and are trying to retroactively prevent blueprints from being posted online although Wilson had initially posted them back in 2013. And, as the saying goes, once it's on the internet, it's there forever.
U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes explained the Trump administration's point of view in a 26-page brief detailing their objection to a preliminary injunction (emphasis mine):
This case is not about the regulation of U.S. persons who wish to utilize a 3D printer to manufacture their own small-caliber firearms. Rather, this case concerns the Department of State’s delegated authority to control the export of defense articles and services, or technical data related thereto, that raise military or intelligence concerns. The Department is tasked with determining what technology and weaponry provides a critical military or intelligence advantage such that it should not be shipped without restriction from the United States to other countries (or otherwise provided to foreigners), where, beyond the reach of U.S. law, it could be used to threaten U.S. national security, foreign policy, or international peace and stability. Domestic activities that do not involve providing access to foreign persons, by contrast, are left to other federal agencies—and the states—to regulate.
In bringing their motion for a preliminary injunction, Plaintiffs misunderstand the fundamental limit on the State Department’s authority. According to Plaintiffs, the Government’s export-related determinations—specifically with respect to the export of technical data developed by Defense Distributed—have jeopardized their ability to protect the safety and health of their residents. But the domestic harms about which Plaintiffs are allegedly concerned are not properly regulated by the Department under current law. Plaintiffs’ allegations of harm are not reasonably attributable to the Department’s regulation of exports, but rather focus on the possibility that third parties will commit violations of the Undetectable Firearms Act or other relevant laws that are not at issue in this case. Likewise, Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that the facts and law clearly favor their position with respect to the merits of their claims, or that it is in the public interest for the Court to second-guess the national security determinations of the Executive Branch.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ motion should be denied.
Translation: the State Department has bigger fish to fry than this. They're concerned about national security, not domestic policy. Gun control regulation doesn't fall into their scope of work. It's up to President Trump and his team to determine what's a national security threat, not the courts and not states' attorney generals.
Another very interesting point the Trump administration brings up:
...the Department has no authority to restrict U.S. persons from sharing these files with other U.S. persons within the United States, the harms identified by Plaintiffs cannot be prevented by an injunction in this case.
...Further, the Government notes that the possibility of manufacturing small-caliber firearms from a 3D-printing process has been publicly discussed since 2013.
Wilson previously published his blueprints back in 2013. That's important to note because that means average Americans have downloaded and saved them. They're able to share the files with others, which we know is happening on the World Wide Web. Keeping Defense Distributed from publishing the files (again) doesn't keep the files out of Americans hands. You know why? Because they're already out there. And there are ways to circumvent that injunction, like CodeIsFreeSpeech.com, where pro-gun groups republished Wilson's blueprints.
The other issue Hayes brought up: the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 which "bars the manufacture, possession, sale, import, or transfer of undetectable firearms." At least 3.7 ounces of metal are required in each of these 3-D printed guns to make them legal.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to bat for his agency.
"Under federal law, it is illegal to manufacture or possess plastic firearms that are undetectable. Violation of this law is punishable by up to five years in prison. Such firearms present a significant risk to public safety, and the Department of Justice will use every available tool to vigorously enforce this prohibition. We will work with federal, state and local law enforcement to identify any possible cases for prosecution," Sessions said in a statement. "We will not stand for the evasion, especially the flouting, of current law and will take action to ensure that individuals who violate the law by making plastic firearms and rendering them undetectable, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent."