1,000+ Americans already have downloaded Defense Distributed’s 3-D printing plans for assault rifles

August 1, 2018

For several years, students and enthusiasts have been using three-dimensional (3-D) printing to create prosthetics for people and animals in need, to build houses, and to produce other types of useful equipment (from bottle openers to coin sorters). Now, 3-D printing suddenly has become more immeasurably more dangerous: In fact, more than 1,000 people nationwide already have downloaded plans to print an AR-15-style semiautomatic assault rifle in three dimensions ahead of a change in the federal law on August 1.

In a court settlement on June 29, the Daily Beast reported, the U.S. government agreed that Americans will be able to legally download plans for 3-D printed guns—nicknamed “Ghost Guns” because they don’t have serial numbers and are untraceable by authorities.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has been fighting to keep 3-D printed guns out of his state, revealed that plans already are gaining popularity online ahead of the law change. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office asked a judge for a restraining order that would block a website run by gun-rights group Defense Distributed, which holds downloadable plans for the guns, from being accessible in his state.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson also announced on July 30 that he is leading a lawsuit brought by eight states and the District of Columbia to block the legalization of downloadable 3-D gun plans.

In addition, according to a report by The Washington Post, 21 state attorneys general have sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing their concern: “As the Chief Law Enforcement Officers of our states, we believe the settlement terms and proposed rules are deeply dangerous and could have an unprecedented impact on public safety. In addition to helping arm terrorists and transnational criminals, the settlement and proposed rules would provide another path to gun ownership for people who are prohibited by federal and state law from possessing firearms. Federal courts have recognized the danger of allowing these guns to be publicly available on the Internet, and this Administration has abruptly disregarded those rulings. We urge you to withdraw from the settlement and withdraw the proposed rules immediately, and allow full and fair consideration of any future proposed rules on these issues.”

They further noted: “As a result of the Department of State’s settlement with Defense Distributed, terrorists, criminals, and individuals seeking to do harm would have unfettered access to print and manufacture dangerous firearms. Some of these weapons may even be undetectable by magnetometers in places like airports and government buildings and untraceable by law enforcement. Illegal trafficking of these guns across state and national borders could also increase, and self-made, unregistered, and untraceable firearms could easily wind up in the hands of (or simply be produced directly by) dangerous individuals.”

President Donald Trump expressed his concern about 3-D guns Tuesday morning, tweeting: “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Finally, in a March poll, nearly two-thirds of American adults under 30 who plan to vote in the midterm elections said that they believe gun-control laws should be stricter—a reflection of growing support for such actions among younger Americans. The poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, conducted following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida., established that 64% of 18- to 29-year-olds favor stricter gun-control laws, regardless of whether they plan to vote in November.

For several years, the opinions of young Democrats, Republicans and independents have been steadily shifting toward greater support for gun-control measures,” said John Della Volpe, the institute’s polling director. “The difference today is that the Parkland students have created an environment where the lack of progress on reducing gun violence is now symbolic of all the ills plaguing Washington, D.C.”

Research contact: harvardiop@gmail.com

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