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Gun-control advocates ask judge to block downloadable 3D guns

In May 2013, Cody Wilson holds a pistol he calls the “Liberator.” The gun was completely made on a 3D printer at his home in Austin, Texas. His attempt to distribute the plans for printing such firearms led to a three-year lawsuit and later settlement with the federal government.
In May 2013, Cody Wilson holds a pistol he calls the “Liberator.” The gun was completely made on a 3D printer at his home in Austin, Texas. His attempt to distribute the plans for printing such firearms led to a three-year lawsuit and later settlement with the federal government. Austin American-Statesman

The Department of Justice quietly agreed to let a Texas man legally offer his downloadable plans to fabricate a 3D-printed gun starting Aug. 1.

When news broke nationally about the agreement over the past week, three national gun safety groups quickly headed to court to try to block the action.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for GunSafety and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have asked a federal judge in Texas to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

The judge agreed to hold a hearing on the motions at 2:30 p.m. CDT on Thursday, July 26.

“We respectfully submit this letter to bring to the Court’s attention the troubling, dangerous, time-sensitive, and potentially illegal terms of the settlement agreement,” states the 35-page letter sent to the judge July 24.

“Simply put, the Department of Justice and State Department have suddenly and completely reversed themselves about the threats to public safety posed by plaintiffs’ proposed actions. The resulting settlement agreement, if carried through, threatens to undermine national security and the national defense of the United States by authorizing the posting and downloading of computer files allowing the fabrication of dangerous make-at-home firearms by any person anywhere in the world.”

Federal law already allows citizens to make their own firearms for personal use. But this do-it-yourself, high-tech gunsmithing has been in legal limbo since 2015. That’s when the U.S. government shut down Texas-based Defense Distributed, just a few days after the company began sharing its 3D-printable gun plans for free online.

The organization’s founder, Cody Wilson, sued. After a three-year legal battle, the Department of Justice capitulated and settled earlier this year.

The settlement goes into effect Aug. 1. It gives Defense Distributed permission to resume free online distribution of blueprints for fabricating a firearm with a 3D printer — a decision supported by Second Amendment advocates and concerning to groups worried about gun violence.

On Thursday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal sent Defense Distributed a cease-and-desist letter.

“You are directed to cease and desist from publishing printable-gun computer files for use by New Jersey residents,” states the July 26 letter. “The files you plan to publish offer individuals, including criminals, codes that they can use to create untraceable firearms—and even to make assault weapons that are illegal in my state.”

This is a breaking news story. Please check back to IdahoStatesman.com for updates.

Cynthia Sewell is Idaho Statesman’s government and investigative reporter. Contact her at (208) 377-6428, csewell@idahostatesman.com or @CynthiaSewell on Twitter.
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