Trump questions 3D gun sales as states sue

WASHINGTON, July 31 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday raised concerns about the sale of plastic guns made with 3-D printers, a day after several U.S. states sued his administration to block the imminent online publication of designs to make the weapons.

Eight states and the District of Columbia on Monday filed a lawsuit to fight a June settlement between the federal government and Defense Distributed allowing the Texas-based company to legally publish its designs. Its downloadable plans are set to go online on Wednesday.

The legal wrangling is the latest fight over gun rights in the United States, where a series of mass shootings in recent years has re-ignited the long-simmering debate over access to firearms.

Proponents of gun control see weapons made from 3-D printers as untraceable, undetectable "ghost" firearms that pose a threat to global security. Some gun rights groups say the technology is expensive, the guns are unreliable and the threat is being overblown.

"I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public," Trump said in a Twitter post that referred to the powerful National Rifle Association lobbying group. "Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense."


Trump did not offer further details.

Representatives for the U.S. State Department, which signed off on the settlement allowing publication of the designs to go forward, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The U.S. Department of Justice, which also signed off on the settlement, said the issue was a matter for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a spokeswoman said.

NRA officials were not immediately available for comment.

The states are asking U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle to issue an injunction to block the online distribution of the gun blueprints. They say the U.S. government has failed to study the national and state security implications of the decision and violated states’ rights to regulate firearms.

Josh Blackman, a lawyer for Defense Distributed, said the case was not about guns but instead about protecting the constitutional free speech rights of his client.

"I don't care what President Trump says. I will be arguing to protect my client's First Amendment rights," he said in an interview on Tuesday.


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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) Leadership Forum during the NRA annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, U.S., on Friday, May 4, 2018. Trump�delivered a strong sign of support for the National Rifle Association at its annual meeting on Friday, as gun-rights advocates regroup in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Defense Distributed's website said it would publish the files on Wednesday but blueprints for seven guns already were available for download on Tuesday. The company's founder, self-declared anarchist Cody Wilson, told media outlets on Monday that the files went up late Friday evening.

Several Democratic U.S. senators said Trump was correct to question the 3-D gun plan sales but said his administration created the problem by recently settling the long-standing lawsuit, allowing Defense Distributed to publish its designs.

“The online availability of downloadable firearms is a public safety crisis that is entirely of the Trump administration’s making," Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts said at a news conference. Leaders of the party, which is in the minority, said they are introducing legislation to ban the weapons.

The states, in their filing on Monday, argued the online plans will give criminals easy access to weapons by circumventing traditional sales and regulations.

SEE ALSO: US states to sue Trump administration over 3-D printed guns

 

The gun plans were pulled from the internet in 2013 by order of the U.S. State Department under international gun trafficking laws. Wilson sued in 2015, claiming the order infringed his constitutional rights.

Until recently, the government argued the blueprints posed a national security risk. Gun control groups said there had been no explanation for the June settlement and the administration's abrupt reversal on the issue.

Wilson said in an online video that the blueprints were downloaded more than 400,000 times before they were taken down in 2013. (Reporting by Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell in Washington, DC, Tina Bellon in New York).

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