US judge: blueprints for 3D-printed firearms should not be shared online

A federal US judge has ruled that President Trump’s administration has violated federal rules with previously granted permission to put 3D-printed blueprints for firearms on the internet.

In the ruling, the judge finds that the permission given by the Trump administration in July last year is arbitrary and capricious. This is a term used when a decision has been made without basing it on reasonable grounds or due consideration of the circumstances. The judge finds that the government previously, during the period of President Obama, took the position that it was necessary to regulate 3D-printed firearms and the necessary CAD files. Given this, the Trump administration had to do more than simply take an opposing stance, the judge said.

The lawsuit is in favor of Washington state and a group of US prosecutors, including Attorney General Bob Ferguson. He said the Trump administration’s attempts to provide unlimited distribution of downloadable files for making 3D-printed firearms violate the Constitution and the U.S. Administrative Procedure Act. “It is astonishing that the Trump administration has gone to such lengths to allow domestic abusers, criminals and terrorists to access untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed firearms. Twitter post said this decision is unwise – one of the rare times I have agreed with him. I am grateful that the court agrees with this,” Ferguson said.

This case revolves around a decision by the United States Department of State in the summer of last year. At that time, the department took the position that the publication of the blueprints did not violate export restrictions. This cleared the way for Cody Wilson, an advocate of gun rights, to publish the blueprints. However, this was temporarily stopped by a lawsuit and afterwards that temporary ban was extended. The current ruling perpetuates the situation that the online publication of blueprints for the 3D printing of mostly plastic firearms is not allowed.

Cody Wilson’s nonprofit organization Defense Distributed is appealing the ruling, a lawyer for the organization told Bloomberg. According to him, the First Amendment protects freedom of expression from all restrictions, including “indirect censorship attempts.” A US State Department official says the ruling is being studied.

Incidentally, it remains to be seen to what extent this ruling or the earlier temporary blockades will help. Defense Distributed said it has continued to distribute the blueprints after the previous temporary ban was imposed, simply by mailing them to customers via regular mail. The Defense Distributed lawyer also states that the blueprints are already on the Internet and will always be there.