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Science & Technology

Judge Temporarily Blocks Downloads Of 3D Printed Gun Blueprints

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A federal judge yesterday blocked the online release of blueprints for making a gun on a 3D printer. This came after attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia filed suit against the Trump administration, which had opened the door to the release of these blueprints by recently settling a related case. Washington state's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, was pleased with the judge's ruling.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB FERGUSON: Makes no damn sense - no damn sense at all - to make those available.

MARTIN: President Trump tweeted yesterday, quote, "I am looking into 3D plastic guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA. Doesn't seem to make much sense," exclamation point. Matt Largey is with member station KUT and has covered this issue for a while.

Matt, thanks for being here.

MATT LARGEY, BYLINE: You're welcome.

MARTIN: So we've got President Trump saying, hey; it doesn't make sense to have blueprints online for these weapons. At the same time, it's his State Department that settled a case just weeks ago that essentially opened the door to their release. So can you explain what's going on here?

LARGEY: Yeah. That's right. So previously, the Obama administration had taken the stance that these files should not be released, and that continued for a while under the Trump administration. But, yeah, then in April, there was kind of this surprise settlement between the State Department and Defense Distributed, the company that's distributing these online plans, and the State Department agreed to kind of carve out an exception for the company.

MARTIN: Huh. But as you note - I mean, it was the Obama administration that stopped this company from releasing all these plans. But before 2013, they had already done so, and as we all know, things that are on the Internet never actually disappear. So if they are essentially already available online, does this ruling by this judge yesterday really mean anything?

LARGEY: Well, it's hard to tell because, yeah, in 2013, Cody Wilson, the guy who founded Defense Distributed - he posted the plans for this single-shot 3D-printed pistol on the Internet, and it's been online kind of ever since. Like, he hasn't been distributing it, but those files have been available on file-sharing sites. They've been passed around by people. They - that file's existed. What's new here is that he released a whole bunch of other plans for different guns, and those have also been downloaded thousands of times because they were online from Friday night until just last night.

MARTIN: What do you know about Cody Wilson?

LARGEY: Well, he characterizes himself as kind of an anarchist, a libertarian. He's very much into gun rights. He told me that this all started for him after the cablegate (ph) thing with Julian Assange and releasing all those diplomatic cables. And he kind of thought about, what might WikiLeaks for guns look like? And so that kind of started him on this journey.

MARTIN: So what happens now, I mean, legally speaking, with the judge now saying, we need to time out in order to decide where to go? How does the case move forward?

LARGEY: Well, I would imagine that Defense Distributed will probably appeal this ruling from the judge. But the merits of the case haven't actually been heard yet, so the actual questions at issue here haven't been decided, and, in fact, they've never been decided. This has been winding its way through the courts for a few years now, but a judge has never actually ruled on whether or not this is legal.

MARTIN: KUT's Matt Largey. Thanks so much, Matt.

LARGEY: You're quite welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.