By MARTHA BELLISLE and MATTHEW DALY
SEATTLE (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday stopped the release of blueprints that can be used to make untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed plastic guns as President Donald Trump questioned whether his administration should have agreed to allow the plans to be posted online.
The company behind the plans, the Austin, Texas-based Defense Distributed, had reached a settlement with the federal government in June allowing it to make the plans for the guns available for download on Wednesday.
The restraining order from U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle puts that plan on hold for now. “There is a possibility of irreparable harm because of the way these guns can be made,” he said.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson called the ruling “a complete, total victory.”
“We were asking for a nationwide temporary restraining order putting a halt to this outrageous decision by the federal government to allow these 3D downloadable guns to be available around our country and around the world. He granted that relief,” Ferguson said at a news conference after the hearing. “That is significant.”
Eight Democratic attorneys general had filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the settlement. They also sought the restraining order, arguing the 3D guns would be a safety risk.
Congressional Democrats have urged President Donald Trump to reverse the decision to publish the plans. At a news conference Tuesday, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that if Trump does not block sale, “Blood is going to be on his hands.”
Trump said Tuesday that he’s “looking into” the idea, saying making 3D plastic guns available to the public “doesn’t seem to make much sense!”
Trump tweeted that he has already spoken with the National Rifle Association about the downloadable directions a Texas company wants to provide for people to make 3D-printed guns. The guns are made of a hard plastic and are simple to assemble, easy to conceal and difficult to trace.
“We don’t agree with President Trump very much,” Washington state Assistant Attorney General Jeff Rupert told Lasnik, “but when he tweeted ‘this doesn’t make much sense,’ that’s something we agree with.”
After a yearslong court battle, the State Department in late June settled the case against Defense Distributed.
The settlement, which took gun-control advocates by surprise, allowed the company to resume posting blueprints for the hard-plastic guns at the end of July. Those plans were put on hold by the Seattle judge’s decision.
During the hearing in Seattle, Eric Soskin, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department, said they reached the settlement to allow the company to post the material online because the regulations were designed to restrict weapons that could be used in war, and the online guns were no different from the weapons that could be bought in a store.
Since the weapons “did not create a military advantage,” he told the judge, “how could the government justify regulating the data?”
But Rupert said a restraining order would keep the plans away from people who have learned about the technology and want to use it to get around gun laws.
Hours before the restraining order was issued, Democrats sounded the alarm, warning about “ghost guns” that can avoid detection and pose a deadly hazard.
The company’s website had said downloads would begin Wednesday, but blueprints for at least one gun — a plastic pistol called the Liberator — have been posted on the site since Friday. A lawyer for the company said he didn’t know how many blueprints had been downloaded since then.
Outrage over the administration decision is putting gun control back into the election-year political debate, but with a high-tech twist.