Twenty states announced Monday that they plan to ask a federal judge in Seattle to immediately issue a temporary restraining order against Defense Distributed, a Texas-based group that has already begun making 3D-printer gun files available on its DEFCAD website after a recent legal settlement with the US State Department.
“After almost 18 months I was skeptical that there was anything else that this administration would do that would truly shock me, but they have,” Washington Attorney General Bill Ferguson told reporters assembled in Olympia and by phone.
The new lawsuit, which Ferguson explained will be filed “within hours,” comes just one day after Defense Distributed voluntarily agreed to block IP addresses from Pennsylvania after that state’s attorney general filed a similar motion in federal court there.
“Pennsylvania is still suing and we are still responding,” Defense Distributed’s founder, Cody Wilson, told Ars.
Preemptively on Sunday, Defense Distributed sued the attorney general of New Jersey and the city attorney of Los Angeles to stop those lawsuits, largely on First Amendment grounds.
In this new 20-state initiative, the Washington attorney general argued that the State Department settlement violated the Administrative Procedure Act and also infringed upon states’ Tenth Amendment right to regulate firearms within their own states. Ferguson pointed out, for example, people convicted of domestic abuse are flagged when they attempt to legally buy a gun. Allowing anyone to download and manufacture their own gun circumvents that process, he said.
But Wilson told Ars it may be too late, as the files went up last Friday evening—days before he said he would resume publishing them on August 1.
“They’re trying to stop me posting files on DEFCAD,” he added. “It already happened. They’ve been up working late but the facts in the ground have changed.”
The settlement with the State Department, which was signed in April but only took effect in late June, says that the DEFCAD files in question are “approved for public release (unlimited distribution) in any form and are exempt from the export licensing requirements of the [International Traffic in Arms Regulations, ITAR].”
The State Department has also agreed to pay Defense Distributed’s legal fees, which total nearly $40,000.
The federal civil suit began more than five years ago when Wilson and Defense Distributed published designs for the “Liberator,” the world’s first 3D-printed handgun.
Within months of publication, Defense Distributed received a letter from the United States Department of State’s Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance stating that 10 files, including the designs of the Liberator, were in violation of the ITAR. This is despite the fact that these files had already been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and continue to circulate online.
So even if the states are somehow successful in shutting down DEFCAD this week, the files have already been available to anyone who wanted them.
The United States Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 allows anyone to manufacture their own firearm without a license, but manufacturing such weaponry for sale or transfer does require a federal license.