SALEM — Oregon is joining a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State to prevent a Texas company from posting designs for guns that can be made on 3-D printers.
California, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Assembling your own gun is legal, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, provided you don’t sell it. Nonetheless, the growing phenomenon of “ghost guns” — so called because they do not have serial numbers that can be traced by the government — presents public safety concerns, detractors say.
“What kind of world are we living in where a criminal, terrorist or anybody with access to the internet and a 3-D printer can build a gun?” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in a written statement Monday. “Once these tutorials to build 3-D guns are unblocked, there is no turning back.”
Supporters, meanwhile, tout 3-D printing technology as a way to skirt what they view as stringent government regulation of firearms.
A 3-D printed gun’s quality often depends on the sophistication of the printer and the quality of the plastic used.
In 2013 Defense Distributed posted downloadable files of 3-D printer designs of a one-shot pistol called the Liberator to its website, Defcad.com.
Days later, the U.S. State Department demanded Defense Distributed’s founder, Cody Wilson, take down the designs, arguing he had violated federal export laws by making the designs accessible in other countries without a license.
Wilson and others sued in 2015, alleging the government’s policy on 3-D-printed guns was unconstitutional.
In May, the U.S. Department of Justice offered to settle with the plaintiffs and said it would change federal rules regulating firearm exports and allow the company to post the designs starting Aug. 1.
Defense Distributed now aims to create a repository of gun designs and to relaunch Defcad.com, according to a recent profile of the company and Wilson in the magazine Wired.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday by nine state attorneys general seeks an injunction that would prevent the federal government from changing the rules to allow the designs to be posted online.
On top of the lawsuit, 21 state attorneys general — including Rosenblum — sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging them to withdraw from the settlement with Defense Distributed.
Last week, in response to questions, Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the State Department would review the new policy of allowing downloadable 3D printing blueprints.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass, have proposed a national ban on 3-D printed guns. They are co-sponsoring a bill in Congress.