3D-printed gun plans can't be distributed online, judge rules

This is just a preliminary block until the case is resolved in court.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
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Wiki Weapon

The parts for the Liberator are almost completely 3D-printed. 

Defense Distributed

Blueprints for 3D-printed gun parts aren't allowed to be spread online for now.

Seattle Judge Robert Lasnik on Monday granted a preliminary injunction to block the online distribution of 3D-printed gun part designs until the case is resolved in court.

"Once again, I'm glad we put a stop to this dangerous policy," said Bob Ferguson, Washington state attorney general and one of the 19 state plaintiffs.

The decision marks the latest development in the ongoing fight over whether these plans should be made widely available over the internet, pitting First and Second Amendment rights advocates against government agencies and state attorneys.

"The order is a manifest injustice and a farcical admission of abridgment of the freedom of speech," said Cody Wilson, the owner of Defense Distributed and creator of 3D-printed gun designs, in an email statement. "I'll be pleased to correct this judge at the Ninth Circuit."

The Second Amendment Foundation, one of the private defendants in the case, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. The State Department referred to the Justice Department and the latter declined to comment.

This injunction comes after 19 state attorneys general last week sued the State Department for settling a prior lawsuit with 3D-printed guns maker Defense Distributed. On July 31, a Seattle judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the free online publication of the 3D-printed gun blueprints.

The distribution of such blueprints has caused quite a stir. It has evolved from a gun control issue to a free speech issue because the design files of the guns can be considered speech. State attorneys and several US senators are concerned as the spreading of these files may compromise public safety.

Judge Lasnik acknowledged the public safety concerns in the injunction and said that the court can't rule on the free speech issue since it's an emerging debate alongside the rapid development of the internet.

"The court finds that the irreparable burdens on the private defendants' First Amendment rights are dwarfed by the irreparable harms the states are likely to suffer if the existing restrictions are withdrawn," Lasnik wrote. "The public interest strongly supports maintaining the status quo, [which means the court will continue to block the distribution of 3D-printed gun designs]."

President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he talked to the National Rifle Association and that the sale of 3D-printed guns "doesn't seem to make much sense."

The White House and NRA haven't responded to requests for comments.

First published on August 27, 10:38 a.m. PT.

Updates, August 28, 6:02 a.m. PT: Adds State Department referred to the Justice Department. 

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