D.C. and Maryland joined six other states in filing suit against the Trump administration Monday over its decision to allow a Texas nonprofit group to publish downloadable blueprints for a 3D-printed gun, contending the hard-to-trace plastic weapons are a boon to terrorists and criminals and threaten public safety.
"These guns are produced without a serial number. The guns themselves aren't registered, nor the ammunition, nor the owners," D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said. "And that means that the owners haven't gone through a detailed and rigorous background examination."
The suit, filed in Seattle, asks a judge to block the federal government's late-June settlement with Defense Distributed, which allowed the group to make the plans available online. Officials say that 1,000 people have already downloaded blueprints for AR-15 rifles.
"I hope to get into court tomorrow, get a temporary restraining order and stop it," Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said Monday.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said Tuesday he is joining the lawsuit.
“Home-printed, untraceable, undetectable guns are just about the worst idea I’ve ever heard,” Herring said in a statement.
Joining the suit were Democratic attorneys general in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon and New York.
Virginia separately joined 21 states, including D.C. and Maryland, urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday to withdraw from the settlement with Defense Distributed, saying it "creates an imminent risk to public safety."
People can use the blueprints to manufacture a plastic gun using a 3D printer. But gun industry experts have expressed doubt that criminals would go to the trouble, since the printers needed to make the guns are very expensive, the guns themselves tend to disintegrate quickly and traditional firearms are easy to come by.
Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, first published downloadable designs for a 3D-printed firearm in 2013. It was downloaded about 100,000 times until the State Department ordered him to cease, contending it violated federal export laws since some of the blueprints were downloaded by people outside the United States.
The State Department reversed course in late June, agreeing to allow Wilson to resume posting the blueprints. The files were published on Friday.
The group filed its own suit in Texas on Sunday, asserting that it's the victim of an "ideologically-fueled program of intimidation and harassment" that violates the company's First Amendment rights.
The group's attorney, Josh Blackman, called it an "easy case."
States are free to enact gun control measures, but "what they can't do is censor the speech of another citizen in another state, and they can't regulate the commerce of another citizen in another state when that commerce is authorized by a federal government license," Blackman said in an interview Monday. "It's a violation of the First Amendment, it's unconscionable and we're going to fight it to the very end."
Defense Distributed agreed to temporarily block Pennsylvania residents from downloading the plans after state officials went to federal court in Philadelphia on Sunday seeking an emergency order. The company said it has also blocked access to users in New Jersey and Los Angeles.