Nine US states have just sued to stop the distribution of plans for 3D-printed weapons. But it may already be too late.
A multi-state lawsuit was filed Monday afternoon that seeks to block a government settlement that would give the public access to downloadable plans for 3D-printed weapons.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit Monday morning, with Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia signing on.
"These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history," Ferguson said in the press release.
Separately, 21 Attorneys General — including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State — have sent a letter (PDF) to the US State Department and the Department of Justice, asking them to immediately block the 3D-printed gun plans from appearing online.
Here's the letter in full:
In 2013, Cody Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed, debuted the world's first 3D-printed gun. In 2015, the weapon designer, which was joined by a gun rights organization, sued after the US State Department forced the removal of the instruction manuals from the internet.
But last month, the State Department agreed to waive its prior restraint order against Wilson and Defense Distributed, allowing them to freely publish designs and other technical files, according to a press release from the Second Amendment Foundation. In the meantime, Wilson has reportedly been stockpiling new weapon designs, as well as working on a computer-controlled mill known as the Ghost Gunner that can automatically make functional AR-15 rifle parts out of a block of aluminum.
The State Department said it settled with Defense Distributed and SAF because the issues raised in the lawsuit won't be relevant to it in the near future when the Department of Commerce takes over the responsibility of regulating exports and manufacturing of commercially available firearms.
In a Tweet posted Monday morning, Wilson said, "I am now being sued by at least 21 state attorneys general."
"We are prepared to litigate," Wilson said in an emailed statement to CNET. "The American people have the unquestionable right to access this information."
In the legal complaint, released Monday afternoon, the states argue that once the 3D-printed weapon plans have been published to the internet on Wednesday, it will be "a bell that cannot be un-rung."
But it turns out that Defense Distributed actually rang that bell before the lawsuit was filed. In an email, Wilson said he had uploaded the plans to its website on July 27 and that they were already available to download. Defense Distributed was initially planning to make the files available on Aug. 1.
Sure enough, CNET was able to download copies of plans for one gun from the website.
Wilson said his site was IP blocked in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Los Angeles, meaning visitors with IP addresses in those places can't easily reach it. He also said the site had "been under attack," though he was working on it.
Update, 6:03p.m. PT: Adds the lawsuit has now officially been filed. You can read the full complaint below: