3D-printed guns hit another hurdle as federal judge extends ban of plans on how to build them

PHOTO: A Liberator pistol appears next to the 3D printer on which its components were made in Hanover, Md., July 17, 2013. PlayRobert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images
WATCH How 3-D printed guns are made and the growing security concerns they present

A federal judge has temporarily extended an injunction against the public release of instructions for building plastic firearms using 3D-printers.

Judge Robert Lasnik of the Western District of Washington in Seattle ruled in favor of 19 states and Washington, D.C., that are seeking to block publication of plans for creating 3D-guns after the State Department settled a multi-year legal dispute with Defense Distributed that allowed the firm to post the blueprints online.

The ruling blocks the Trump administration from allowing the Texas firm to release the plans at least until the states' lawsuit over the issue is resolved.

Lasnik said Cody Wilson, owner of Defense Distributed, wanted to post the plans online so that citizens can arm themselves without having to deal with licenses, serial numbers and registrations.

PHOTO: A 3D printed gun, called the Liberator, is seen in a factory in Austin, Texas, Aug. 1, 2018.Kelly West/AFP/Getty Images
A 3D printed gun, called the "Liberator," is seen in a factory in Austin, Texas, Aug. 1, 2018.

"It is the untraceable and undetectable nature of these small firearms that poses a unique danger," Lasnik said. "Promising to detect the undetectable while at the same time removing a significant regulatory hurdle to the proliferation of these weapons - both domestically and internationally - rings hollow and in no way ameliorates, much less avoids, the harms that are likely to befall the states if an injunction is not issued."

Wilson has argued that the court's injunction forcing him to take down the blueprints violated his freedom of speech.

Lasnik's decision today extended a temporary restraining order he issued in late July after the State Department reached the settlement with Defense Distributed following the agency's removal of 3D gun-making plans from a list of weapons or technical data not allowed to be exported.

The states argued that the federal agency didn't follow the law when it removed 3D guns from the munitions list. They said the government was supposed to notify Congress and provide a 30-day window before making a change to that list, but it did not.

A lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department had argued against the court's injunction, saying possessing 3D plastic guns is already against the law, and the federal government is committed to enforcing that law.

But the judge said it wasn't enough.

"While the court appreciates the earnestness with which this commitment was made at oral argument, it is of small comfort to know that, once an undetectable firearm has been used to kill a citizen of Delaware or Rhode Island or Vermont, the federal government will seek to prosecute a weapons charge in federal court while the state pursues a murder conviction in state court," Lasnik said.

The New York attorney general tweeted that their office will "not allow the federal government to endanger New Yorkers."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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