A federal judge has struck down a decision by the Trump administration to allow blueprints for 3D-printed guns to be shared online.
In a ruling published Tuesday, Judge Robert Lasnik said the deal made in July last year was “arbitrary and capricious” and thus a violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution.
The original deal was part of a settlement between the Justice Department and Texas-based nonprofit Defense Distributed, which garnered worldwide attention in 2013 with its claims to have created the world’s first “100 percent 3D-printed gun.” The dissemination of plans for the gun was blocked by the Obama administration, but last year Defense Distributed successfully sued the government and had the ban reversed, arguing that it was a free speech violation.
Lasnik’s ruling has overturned this last decision, with the judge stating that previous arguments made against Defense Distributed by the Department of State — namely that “the manufacture of undetectable firearms was a threat to world peace and the national security interests of the United States” — still held. “Against these findings, the federal defendants offer nothing,” said Lasnik.
The ruling was made as a summary judgement, meaning the case will not go to trial, but Defense Distributed says it will still appeal the decision.
“The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech from all abridgment, including indirect censorship efforts like this one,” Chad Flores, a spokesperson for the nonprofit, told Bloomberg. “And states aren’t allowed to commandeer the federal government to do their unconstitutional bidding, even under the guise of statutory technicalities.”
Opposition to the Trump administration’s decision came from numerous states, who argued that allowing plans for 3D-printed guns to be shared online endangered law enforcement and citizens alike.
“Without question, the release of step-by-step instructions for the production of untraceable and undetectable firearms would threaten the safety of not only our nation’s residents, but people around the globe,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement.
Bloomberg notes that the decision may still have limitations, given that Defense Distributed worked around a previous, temporary ban on downloading plans by simply mailing blueprints directly to customers. Said Flores: “The speech these states want so badly to censor is already on the internet and always will be.”