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Bob Ferguson
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaking at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Washington is leading a multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration over its plan to allow the online distribution of guides to 3D printing firearms.

The suit, announced Monday by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, claims the federal government broke the law when it settled a 2015 dispute with 3D printed gunmaker Defense Distributed and the Bellevue, Wash., gun rights group the Second Amendment Foundation.

Prior to the settlement, the two firearms organizations were at odds with the State Department over a mandate that 3D printed gun instruction manuals be removed from the internet. The feds claimed those tutorials violated firearm export laws. Two federal judges sided with the State Department. Despite those victories, the federal government announced a settlement with the firearms groups this month, allowing the 3D gun manuals to be distributed online. Ferguson’s office calls the move “an abrupt reversal.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Seattle. Washington is joined by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia in the suit. The states claim that the federal government violated administrative procedures by waiving restrictions on Defense Distributed’s downloadable gun files. The lawsuit also claims that the Trump administration is violating states’ Tenth Amendment rights to regulate firearms.

“I have a question for the Trump Administration: Why are you allowing dangerous criminals easy access to weapons?” Ferguson said in a statement. “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.”

Ferguson’s office is asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order barring Defense Distributed from publishing the 3D printed gun tutorials. The organization says it plans to publish downloadable 3D printer guides for firearms Aug. 1. With those instructions, anyone with a 3D printer will be able to manufacture their own guns, without completing the background checks or meeting other requirements mandated by state laws.

“Washington has a robust regulatory system meant to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” says the announcement from Ferguson’s office. “That system is jeopardized by the Trump Administration’s action and will be undermined by the distribution of Defense Distributed’s downloadable guns.”

The complaint is not yet available to the public but Ferguson’s office says the Second Amendment Foundation and Defense Distributed will be named in the lawsuit as “necessary parties.”

“If we are a named party in the suit we will litigate,” said Defense Distributed’s Cody Wilson. He declined to comment further.

Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb called the settlement with the federal government “a First Amendment victory for free speech” and “a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby” in a statement.

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