Just when an end seemed near, two 3D-printed gun-file legal battles get new life

fresh legal complaint against New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. The company did so after a website that hosted DD’s gun files received a corresponding takedown notice from New Jersey.

Evidently it can’t wait

The last major action in came toward the end of 2018 when the defendants filed a motion to pause everything for four months while the State Department considered new rules that it argued would “directly bear on this case.

” Washington et al. pursued this legal action initially because they believed that, when the Department of Justice settled its five-year legal battle with Defense Distributed in July 2018 and allowed the CAD files in question to be re-posted, that action violated the Constitution. But in a November 2018 filing, government lawyers for the defense explained that rule changes being considered by the State Department would make any legal conflicts in moot.

Today, however, US District Judge Robert Lasnik denied the Department of State’s motion to stay the case, meaning the case will move forward for now. In his filing with the decision, Judge Lasnik indicated the defendants simply did not provide enough proof that impactful rule changes were imminent.

“Plaintiffs filed this action in July 2018 to prevent the federal defendants from acting on informal agency determinations that were not made in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act and may violate the 11th Amendment,” Judge Lasnik writes. “The federal defendants imply that the temporary modification and letter were part of the larger process which will ultimately justify the authorizations granted in 2018, but no details regarding the substance of the proposed final rule are provided… The federal defendants have failed to do anything more than baldly assert that the final rules will impact the outcome of this case.”

‘s origins can be traced back to Defense Distributed’s initial legal battle (PDF) with the Department of State, which started in 2013 and centered on export laws (specifically the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR). In essence, Defense Distributed was accused of violating American export law. Domestic publication of the files was not at issue, but the chance of those files landing in the hands of a foreign entity sparked the feds to act. Defense Distributed initially removed the information from its site, fearful of facing criminal prosecution or a lawsuit.

Aren’t these files already online?

Yes. Despite all the legal action around Defense Distributed’s CAD files, this information has been readily available online for years. To start, copies have circulated on BitTorrent and mirror sites since Defense Distributed first published. And the sale of these files within the US hasn’t been disputed at large—since last fall, Defense Distributed has instituted a pay-what-you-want sales scheme in order to distribute this information while complying with the various legal rulings. Notably, that arrangement is not currently available in New Jersey in light of a state law known as SB2465.

The two sides settled last summer when the feds essentially agreed to change the relevant export laws. Defense Distributed would be allowed to publish, the DOJ would pay $40,000 of DD’s legal fees, and the case would be over. The Second Amendment Foundation announced the settlement on July 10, 2018. Defense Distributed announced that it would be putting the files back online on August 1, though it hit “publish” earlier than that.

The situation sparked Washington (and ultimately 18 other states plus the District of Columbia) to ask a federal judge for a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the publishing of said files. The states argued that allowing Defense Distributed to release the files violated both the 10th Amendment (which allows states to regulate activity not specifically described in the Constitution) and federal administrative law. If Americans could access these files and make anonymous, untraceable weapons, the states argued, they would be circumventing state-level firearms laws that restricted access to guns.

began in the fall, and Judge Lasnik agreed with the TRO argument. The judge concluded that, because the State Department did not formally notify Congress when it modified the United States Munitions List (allowing Defense Distributed to republish its CAD files), the previous legal settlement that Defense Distributed struck with the department was invalid. No other substantial rulings had been made since, as the case largely waited on both the defense’s motion to stay and the related, potential rule changes the State Department said would change the dynamics in .

“The States opposed the stay because the government has given no indication of how a final rule might apply to 3D-printed gun files or how it would regulate their export, if at all,” the Washington attorney general’s office told Ars back in January. “The best outcome for the state is that federal law will continue to prohibit the export of 3D-printed gun files, including by distributing them via the Internet, so they are not readily available to anyone on the Web, including dangerous individuals prohibited from owning firearms in Washington state.”

Nathan Mattise Nathan is an Austin-based Features Editor at Ars Technica. He edits and contributes posts on a variety of topics like lost short films that ran before , how NASA kept the Shuttle program going against Hurricane Katrina, and why Apple no longer loves indie bands. He also hosts and produces multimedia, like the Decrypted podcast season on or the new Tech on TV video series.
Email[email protected]//Twitter@nathanmattise

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