Trump Administration Finalizes Rule to Spread Access to Downloadable Guns, Even After Court Found Prior Action to Be Unlawful
Downloadable Guns Will Enable Anyone––Including Terrorists, Convicted Felons, and Domestic Abusers––to Download Schematics Online and Create Their Own Untraceable Guns
WASHINGTON — Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown, released the following statements today criticizing the Trump administration for finalizing a rule that enables schematics for downloadable, untraceable guns to be posted online.
“The Trump administration just made a dangerous and baffling decision,” said Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “For years, the State Department worked to prevent these deadly designs from going public. Allowing unfettered access to gun schematics will enable convicted felons, terrorists, and domestic abusers to create untraceable guns with ease and put public safety at risk.”
“Gun violence is a uniquely American crisis. Yet instead of making it harder for the wrong people to get guns, the Trump administration just made it easier,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Americans overwhelmingly support common-sense legislation that keeps guns out of the wrong hands, and it’s past time that our leaders––including the president––stopped playing politics and started saving lives.”
The Trump administration’s decision to shift oversight of downloadable guns from the State Department to the Department of Commerce, thus enabling the Department of Commerce to issue licenses allowing the publication of downloadable gun schematics online, comes after a federal court found the administration’s previous attempt to allow the posting of schematics unlawful. In its decision, the court found that the administration had failed to provide any rationale for the sudden change in the State Department’s previous determination that downloadable guns endanger Americans by making it easier for terrorists and criminals to obtain these weapons. With the filing of this final rule, the administration has now moved forward with the formal shift in oversight despite the court’s ruling and the American people’s overwhelming opposition to downloadable gun schematics being posted online, therefore enabling anyone––including convicted felons and domestic abusers––to download schematics and print their own untraceable guns.
Since downloadable gun schematics were first posted online in 2013, they have begun to show up in the hands of criminals. In February of 2019, 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 schematics;
- Everytown’s supporters made 24,851 calls and sent 164,436 messages to the State Department;
- The Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the attorneys general of nineteen other 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 legal theory was largely based on a motion initially filed by Everytown Law and other leading gun safety organizations in Texas federal court.
- Everytown filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the attorneys general.
The attorneys general were successful in their lawsuit. 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 for two reasons:
- “The agency failed to consider aspects of the problem which Congress deemed important before issuing the temporary modification and letter on July 27, 2018.”
- The Department of State had previously determined 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,” and the court found 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].”
Experts are available to provide more information on downloadable guns and the litigation.