Appeals court rejects efforts to revive 3D-printed gun lawsuit

It was one of the latest attempts to get the courts to sanction the online publishing of plans for how to assemble your own gun.

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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Wiki Weapon

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

Defense Distributed

A US appeals court has rejected a 2018 lawsuit intended to make it legal to publish the plans for 3D printing your own gun online. Filed Jan. 21 and reported earlier Wednesday by Austin American-Statesman, the case saw Second Amendment advocates push to publish their plans on how to 3D-print a firearm called the Liberator, according to the lawsuit.

Nonprofit Defense Distributed, based in Texas, developed the Liberator plans but was blocked from publishing them online as federal regulations require the government's approval. The company sued the State Department, the Secretary of State and other senior State Department officials. The State Department settled with the company, so the suit was voluntarily dismissed by Defense Distributed.

Then, 20 US states and the District of Columbia stepped in, filing their own lawsuit to block the distribution of 3D-printed gun designs online. A Washington district court issued a restraining order and injunction against the State Department.

But after voluntarily dismissing its own suit, the company was prevented from reopening it. The US Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit this week found there's still no cause to reopen the case.

Cody Wilson, who is again serving as director of Defense Distributed -- he left the company in 2018 after being charged with sexual assault and was eventually sentenced to seven years probation after pleading guilty to injury to a child -- denied the decision was a setback.

"It was a big surprise when these 21 states came out of the blue and sued us in Seattle," Wilson told CNET in a phone call Wednesday afternoon. "This appeal was our attempt to open the case back up, but we agree with the court's interpretation."

Wilson said Defense Distributed has about four or five other federal lawsuits on the go, including the continuing case against those states, in which he noted the company is now a co-defendant alongside the State Department.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced late Thursday that she's suing the Trump Administration over allowing 3D-printed gun schematics to be published online. She tweeted the lawsuit is an effort "to stop the Trump Admin from catering to the gun lobby and further facilitating the spread of gun violence in our nation."

"These files allow anyone to simply go online and download files to print and assemble guns, including assault rifles," James tweeted. "These 'ghost guns' are unregistered, untraceable, often undetectable and risk the lives of every American."

Originally published Jan. 22, 3:55 p.m. PT.
Update, 4:47 p.m.: Adds comment from Wilson; Jan. 23: Adds news about New York AG suing.

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