Due to a Recent Court Ruling, the Biden-Harris Administration has Mere Weeks to Act Before an Injunction Will be Lifted and a Trump Administration Rule Will Take Effect, Thus Allowing Plans for Downloadable, Untraceable Guns to Be Posted Online
Life-Saving Preventive Action from the Biden-Harris Administration Could Be As Simple As Announcing that It Plans to Stop the Trump Rule from Taking Effect
WASHINGTON — Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statement today calling on the Biden-Harris administration to take action in the coming weeks to prevent a Trump administration rule from taking effect that would allow plans for downloadable, untraceable guns to be posted online. During his campaign, President Joe Biden pledged to do exactly that, saying that his administration would “ensure that the authority for firearms exports stays with the State Department, and if needed, reverse a proposed rule by President Trump. This will ensure the State Department continues to block the code used to 3D print firearms from being made available on the Internet.”
The Trump administration’s rule –– which would shift the oversight of downloadable guns from the State Department to the Department of Commerce, thus allowing anti-government extremists to post untraceable gun plans online –– will take effect as soon as May 18th due to a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling overturned an injunction that has prevented the Trump administration rule from taking effect, which was granted last year in a lawsuit filed by 23 attorneys general in Washington state against the Trump administration’s Department of Justice.
If extremist companies are allowed to post downloadable gun plans online, it would be difficult to ever undo the damage and fully remove them from the internet. Fortunately, the Biden-Harris administration can act now to right the Trump administration’s wrong and prevent these plans for untraceable, deadly weapons from becoming widely available online.
“If allowed to take effect, the 9th Circuit’s ruling would give extremists free reign to flood the internet with downloadable guns that are untraceable and undetectable,” said Jonas Oransky, Everytown’s legal director. “The Biden-Harris administration can and should reverse the Trump administration’s rules that made this dangerous situation possible, but the clock is ticking. If these plans become publicly available, there will be no second chance to get this right.”
Action from the Biden-Harris administration can come in two forms. The safer and stronger route would be to announce its intention to reverse the Trump administration rules, thus empowering the State Department to continue to regulate downloadable guns. As a fallback option, it could announce that the Department of Commerce will regulate downloadable guns in the same strong manner that the State Department has done in the past. Either decision would prevent downloadable gun plans from legally being posted online.
Yesterday, House of Representatives Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson (D-CA) and the leadership of the task force wrote a letter to President Biden calling on him to “prevent the publication of the online files that allow people to 3-D print firearms at home.”
Since downloadable gun plans were first posted online in 2013, they have begun to show up in the hands of criminals. In February of 2019, for example, a Texas man was sentenced to eight years in prison after officers caught him with a partially 3D-printed AR-15 rifle and a list of lawmakers’ addresses in his backpack, despite being banned from owning a firearm due to a violent altercation with a live-in girlfriend. According to the Congressional Research Service, the 3-D printer that a criminal would need to create such a weapon could cost less than $150.
After the initial announcement in July 2018 that downloadable guns would be released online, there has been an outpouring of opposition from state attorneys general, elected officials, and Americans across the country. Law enforcement officials and military veterans urged the State Department to protect public safety by blocking the publication of these plans, and Everytown’s supporters made 24,851 calls and sent 164,436 messages to the State Department.
In a previous successful lawsuit, the attorneys general of 20 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit to bar the government from lifting its prohibitions on companies distributing computer code for downloadable guns. The attorneys general’s lawsuit echoed the legal theory put forward in a challenge brought by Everytown Law and other leading gun safety organizations in Texas federal court. The attorneys general were successful in that initial lawsuit and were supported by an amicus curiae brief filed by Everytown. The court found that the State Department failed to give thirty days’ notice to the Congressional foreign relations committees as required by 22 U.S.C. § 2778(f)(1).
The court further found that the agency action was arbitrary and capricious in light of the State Department’s previous determination that downloadable guns would be “a threat to world peace and the national security interests of the United States and would cause serious and long-lasting harm to its foreign policy.” The court explained that “the agency failed to identify substantial evidence in the administrative record explaining a change of position that necessarily contradicts its prior determinations and findings regarding the threats posed by [downloadable guns] and the need to regulate [them].”