UPDATED 6:55 p.m. | With the clock ticking toward the release of publishable blueprints of 3D-printed guns, Democrats held a press conference Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to implore the White House to stop it.
As of Wednesday, nonprofit Defense Distributed will publish on its website instructions to build a 3D plastic gun named the Liberator. Democrats are worried these guns are undetectable, untraceable, and unrestrained: they won’t have a metal part and won’t be detected by metal detectors, they will not have a serial number to be tracked by law enforcement, and anyone will be able to build them without a background check.
Democrats are calling the firearms ‘ghost guns.’
Tuesday morning, Senate Democrats introduced legislation sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson to block the publishing of 3D gun blueprints. Nelson later made a unanimous consent request on the bill. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, objected.
“We now live in a world where a 3d printer cartridge has become as deadly as a gun cartridge,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. “It’s the ultimate gun loophole. Why buy them if you could print them at home instead?”
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal gave President Donald Trump an out. “Blame it on Jeff Sessions,” he said. “He can simply attribute it to a misjudgment on the part of the DOJ, and ban these ghost guns,” said Blumenthal. “Otherwise … coming to a theater near you,” Blumenthal said, displaying an image of a 3D-printed AR 15.
Defense Distributed first published instructions to build ghost guns in May of 2013. Days later, the Department of Justice issued a cease-and-desist letter to the site’s founder Cody Wilson, then a 25-year-old law student, according to CNN.
Because anyone anywhere in the world would have access to the instructions, the publication violated the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the DOJ said. The site promptly removed the instructions, CNN reported.
Wilson sued the federal government in 2015 on free speech grounds and reached a settlement last month allowing for publication of the 3D-printed gun blueprints beginning August 1, 2018, according to WPRI.
President Trump’s feelings on the matter look to be at odds with those of the Justice Department.
“I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
“Mr. President, you once said that you alone can fix things. Well, fix this deadly mistake that your administration has made,” Markey said in rebuttal.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not seem optimistic the Trump administration will do anything to reverse the decision, calling Trump’s tweet “a dollar short and a day late.”
“On issue after issue, the Trump admin’s MO when there’s a crisis is to say we’ll look into it, we’re working with the NRA, and then nothing happens,” said Schumer. He cited the bump stocks issue, claiming Trump and the NRA said they would look into it and no action followed.
Rep. Thomas Massie questioned who the president was speaking with at the NRA, and said that laws are already in place outlawing undetectable guns.
“Even Congress can’t ban 3D printers, the internet, or the 1st Amendment. The President certainly can’t. And besides, there’s already a law against undetectable guns. With whom is he speaking at the NRA?” the Kentucky Republican tweeted.
The Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 outlaws firearms not detectable by walk-through metal detection or that do not generate an accurate image under standard airport imaging technology.
The lift of this ban won’t change anything, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. If you cannot pass a background check, you cannot legally own a gun regardless, and the Undetectable Firearms Act already makes it illegal to make these guns, he said.
“My understanding is this doesn’t change current law — what is says is a matter of the first amendment that the courts are not going to enjoin the publication of the instructions,” said Cornyn. “It’s the same sort of legal challenge we have between the first amendment, which gives people the right of free expression, but then to actually do what they instruct you to do is illegal.”
State attorneys general filed a lawsuit Monday against Defense Distributed, federal agencies and the Second Amendment Foundation requesting a nationwide injunction, the Washington Post reported.
With the deadline nearing a U.S. district judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order against Defense Distributed to halt the release of blueprints, according to the Post.