State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Carrie Rodriguez/staff photo

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Carrie Rodriguez/staff photo

AG Ferguson sues Trump administration for giving dangerous people access to 3-D printed firearms

Ferguson argues downloadable guns make weapons easier for people to obtain.

  • Tuesday, July 31, 2018 8:30am
  • News

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced he is leading a multistate lawsuit to block a Trump Administration action that gives criminals and terrorists access to downloadable, untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed weapons. This lawsuit is being filed in federal court in Seattle. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia joined Washington’s lawsuit.

In 2015, Defense Distributed, an organization dedicated to global distribution of open-source, downloadable 3D-printed guns, sued the federal government after the U.S. State Department forced the removal of the instruction manuals from the internet. The federal government successfully argued that the manuals violate firearm export laws before two federal judges. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Then, in an abrupt reversal, the federal government settled the case on June 29. As part of the settlement, the Trump Administration will allow the downloadable guns for unlimited public distribution in any form. This will give anyone with a 3D printer access to these weapons.

Defense Distributed recently announced that on Aug. 1, it would upload the data files to the internet, essentially giving plug-and-play access to guns.

Ferguson filed a lawsuit July 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington arguing the Trump Administration actions resulting from the settlement violate the Administrative Procedure Act and the 10th Amendment. Ferguson also asks the court for a nationwide temporary restraining order, both to bar the federal government from lifting export controls for these tutorials, and to prevent Defense Distributed from posting the downloadable guns online.

“I have a question for the Trump Administration: Why are you allowing dangerous criminals easy access to weapons?” Ferguson said. “These downloadable guns are unregistered and very difficult to detect, even with metal detectors, and will be available to anyone regardless of age, mental health or criminal history. If the Trump Administration won’t keep us safe, we will.”

In defending against Defense Distributed’s lawsuit, the federal government previously stated it was “particularly concerned that [the] proposed export of undetectable firearms technology could be used in an assassination, for the manufacture of spare parts by embargoed nations, terrorist groups, or to compromise aviation security overseas in a manner specifically directed at U.S. persons.”

A federal judge in the Western District of Texas in 2015 rejected Defense Distributed’s effort to temporarily block the government’s regulation of its materials, finding that “facilitating global access to firearms undoubtedly increases the possibility of outbreak or escalation of conflict.”

After the appeal of that decision was rejected, and the Supreme Court declined to hear it, the federal government moved to dismiss Defense Distributed’s lawsuit in April of this year. It argued that the downloadable guns “can unquestionably facilitate the creation of defense articles abroad” and that “the Department of State has consistently and reasonably concluded that it is not possible to meaningfully curtail the overseas dissemination of arms if unfettered access to technical data essential to the production of those arms is permitted.”

If the federal government were not permitted to regulate the dissemination of the downloadable guns, it argued, “they could be used to threaten U.S. national security, U.S. foreign policy interests, or international peace and stability.”

Mere weeks later, Defense Distributed announced the case had settled. “The government surprised the plaintiffs by suddenly offering them a settlement with essentially everything they wanted,” according to a report from Wired magazine. The settlement agreement was not made public until July 10.

The Trump Administration settlement requires the government to “temporarily” waive export restrictions on Defense Distributed’s downloadable gun files. In order to do this legally, the Administration must get the concurrence of the Department of Defense and provide at least 30 days’ notice to Congress. The lawsuit alleges there is no evidence either of those steps have happened, which violates the Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit also argues that the Trump Administration action is arbitrary and capricious, also in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

For example, there is no indication in the settlement agreement or elsewhere that any analysis, study or determination was made by the government defendants in consultation with other agencies, before the federal government agreed to lift export controls on the downloadable guns. In fact, the agreement states that it “does not reflect any agreed-upon purpose other than the desire of the Parties to reach a full and final conclusion of the Action, and to resolve the Action without the time and expense of further litigation.”

The lawsuit also argues the settlement violates the 10th Amendment by infringing on states’ rights to regulate firearms. Washington has a robust regulatory system meant to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals. That system is jeopardized by the Trump Administration’s action and will be undermined by the distribution of Defense Distributed’s downloadable guns.

Ferguson’s lawsuit includes “necessary parties” Defense Distributed, the Second Amendment Foundation, and Conn Williamson, because they will be impacted by the relief he is seeking in this lawsuit.

Ferguson asks the court to consider the temporary restraining order prior to Wednesday, Aug. 1, when Defense Distributed has announced it will post its files online.

The Attorney General’s Office is 7-0 in cases against the Trump Administration that are completed and there are no more appeals. That does not include three additional successful outcomes that have been or could be appealed, including blocking President Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military and his attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This is Ferguson’s 32nd lawsuit against the Trump Administration.

More in News

Suspect steals 85-year-old’s cell phone | Police blotter

The Bothell police blotter for Nov. 26 through 28.

The 2019-20 county budget of $11.7 billion dollars passed by the King County Council. The King County budget priorities are affordable housing and homelessness, public safety, local services, expanding transit access and options, environment, parks and recreation, and equity an health. Graphic courtesy of King County
King County council passes 2019-20 budget

Budget priorities include affordable housing and homelessness, public safety and expanding transit access and options.

The Centralia Power Plant is a coal-burning plant owned by TransAlta which supplies 380 megawatts to Puget Sound Energy. It is located in Lewis County and slated to shut down by 2025. Aaron Kunkler/Staff Photo
National report outlines climate change’s course for the Northwest

More fires, floods and drought appear to be on their way for Washington state.

Bothell awarded more than $4.5 million for three priority projects

The funds will be available in 2021 and 2022 for varying projects, including a Bothell Way widening.

Bothell buys back proposed hotel land

A development deal to bring two hotels to downtown Bothell has fallen through.

Suspect rips up resident’s rose bushes | Police blotter

The Bothell police blotter for Nov. 20 through 22.

Construction on Northeast 188th Street to begin this spring

New sidewalks and bike lanes will connect Bothell High School to downtown.

The Council recognized the AFIS program as it celebrates 30 years of assisting law enforcement throughout King County. Councilmembers, AFIS staff and King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht join AFIS regional manager, Carol Gillespie. Photo courtesy of King County.
King County Council recognizes county’s Automated Fingerprint Information System

For three decades, AFIS has helped law enforcement solve thousands of cases.

‘This might have been a once in a generation opportunity’: Kenmore’s Lakepointe deal grinds to a halt

City officials unsure of what comes next for the more than 50 acre industrial site.

King County Flood Control District approves 2019 Budget on Nov. 5. Photo courtesy of King County Flood Control District.
King County Flood Control District approves $93 million budget

The 2019 District Budget will maintain current flood protection services.

Student veterans receive new resource center at UW Bothell

The Veterans Resource Center at UW Bothell was created after student veterans indicated they wanted a space designated for themselves.

UW Bothell Student Veterans Services held an Open House and Coffee event during this year’s Welcome Week and remains the main arm in helping veterans. The new resource center adds to this support. Photo courtesy of Marc Studer, UW Bothell
UW Bothell opens new veterans resource center on campus

The new Veteran Resource Center is designed to connect veterans and build relationships.