Preparedness

3-D-Printed Gun Downloads Can't Be Accessed in Pennsylvania for Now, but Court Battle Will Ensue

Defense Distributed, the Texas nonprofit that generated the printer plans, has agreed 'to refrain from posting new information and to block all information from being accessed in Pennsylvania.'

by Justine McDaniel, Philly.com / July 30, 2018
AP/Jay Janner

(TNS) — For now, Pennsylvanians cannot access the website providing files for creating 3-D-printed guns — after the state became the first in the nation to challenge the publication of the plans, and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro won a temporary block of the files in an emergency hearing in federal court on Sunday evening.

Defense Distributed, the Texas nonprofit that generated the printer plans, has agreed “to refrain from posting new information and to block all information from being accessed in Pennsylvania,” according to an order from Judge Paul S. Diamond filed Monday morning.

The attorney general’s office must file an amended complaint and motion for an injunction by 5 p.m. Monday, the order said.

The files for making guns with a 3-D printer are set to be published online by Defense Distributed by Wednesday, thanks to a State Department settlement ending a years-long ban on their publication. At least one plan, for an AR-15, was uploaded to the group’s website Friday for download, causing controversy nationwide.

Now, any user in Pennsylvania who tries to access the blueprints on Defense Distributed’s website receives this message: 451: We’re sorry, but DEFCAD has been blocked in your location.

The hearing came after Shapiro, Gov. Wolf and the Pennsylvania State Police filed a lawsuit against Defense Distributed on Sunday.

“These downloadable firearms were just about to be widely available online. It’s an existential threat to our state & we stepped in to stop it. The site is — & will remain — dark throughout PA,” Shapiro tweeted Sunday.

That depends on whether the attorney general can win a permanent injunction in court, which Shapiro’s office has vowed to pursue.

New Jersey Attorney General Gubrir Grewal tried a different approach, sending Defense Distributed a cease-and-desist letter that claimed it would violate state law to make the files available to New Jerseyans. The group sued the Garden State in a federal district court in Texas on Sunday.

“Americans have the right to this data,” Defense Distributed director Cody Wilson said in a Sunday-night interview with The Inquirer and Daily News. “We have the right to share it. Pennsylvania has no right to come in and tell us what we can and can’t share on the internet.”

Plastic 3-D-printed guns are not traceable and do not have serial numbers. They can get past metal detectors, though they still require regular ammunition made out of metal.

Wilson has been in a battle with the federal government since 2013, when he first put plans for the guns online and the State Department forced him to remove the files. Since, they have been engaged in a legal battle, Wilson fighting for what he calls his constitutional right to publish the files.

The federal government filed as recently as April a motion to dismiss Wilson’s suit, according to a group of U.S. senators fighting the settlement. But a month ago, President Trump’s State Department reversed course and settled the case, allowing Wilson to make the plans available.

Gun-rights groups called it a victory. The Second Amendment Foundation, which joined the lawsuit with Defense Distributed and announced the settlement, said the settlement also included an acknowledgment by the federal government that certain firearms, including semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15, “are not inherently military.”

“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby,” Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan M. Gottlieb said in a July 10 statement. “For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort.”

Meanwhile, gun-control advocacy groups are demanding that the U.S. State Department stop the release of the plans. A coalition including The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed an emergency motion in court last week that was tossed out by a judge. According to Moms Demand Action, more than 100,000 messages and calls of protest had been sent to the federal government as of July 27.

A group of Democratic senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday urging him to block the publication of the blueprints. He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday that he would review the decision, according to the letter.

Staff writer Tom Avril contributed to this story.

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