Administrative Law

Judge blocks publication of blueprints for 3D-printed guns in multistate suit

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A federal judge in Washington state has issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the Trump administration from allowing publication of blueprints to produce guns from 3D printers.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik of Seattle ruled Tuesday in a suit filed by eight states and Washington, D.C., report the New York Times, Ars Technica, the Washington Post and a press release.

Defense Distributed had planned to publish the blueprints after the U.S. State Department agreed to settle a suit filed by the company in an agreement made public on July 10. The suit had claimed the State Department violated the First Amendment by warning in 2013 that publication of the blueprints violated export controls and could lead to a jail sentence for the company chief, former law student Cody Wilson.

The Arms Export Control Act authorizes the president to control the import and export of firearms of up to .50 caliber, along with technical data related to the weapons. In the settlement agreement, the federal agreed to temporarily alter the U.S. Munitions List to allow distribution of the blueprints and to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking.

The government reached the settlement, although the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had affirmed a federal court decision denying Wilson’s request for an injunction to stop the government from barring his blueprints.

The agreement allowed people to sign up to download the files beginning Aug. 1. Ars Technica reported that Defense Distributed released blueprints before that date for 10 different firearms, including an AR-15. Ars Technica downloaded four of the blueprints.

Lasnik said in his opinion that there are no findings of fact in the settlement agreement “that could explain the federal government’s dramatic change of position or that alter its prior analysis.”

Nor is there any indication that the government followed laws requiring a 30-day notice to Congress and agreement by the secretary of defense before any weapon is removed from the Munitions List, Lasnik said.

The eight states that filed the lawsuit with the District of Columbia are New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon and Maryland. Their suit had argued the government’s about-face was an arbitrary and capricious action that violates the Administrative Procedure Act and states’ rights under the Tenth Amendment to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

The lawyer for Wilson, South Texas College of Law Professor Josh Blackman, told the Post he views Lasnik’s decision “as a massive prior restraint of free speech.”

President Donald Trump said in an early-Tuesday tweet that he is “looking into” the issue.

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