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Connecticut Joins Federal Lawsuit to Stop Unlawful and Dangerous Release of 3-D Printed Firearm Plans

States seek immediate injunction to prohibit announced release of plans on Aug. 1

Connecticut has joined with a coalition of states from around the country in a lawsuit challenging federal government’s capitulation that will allow individuals to download plans and 3-D print fully functional, undetectable and untraceable firearms, Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen said today.

The lawsuit, which names U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the federal Directorate of Defense Trade Controls as defendants and will be filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, challenges a rulemaking and settlement that the federal government entered with a private company, Defense Distributed, and others. The company's stated objective is to ensure global, unrestricted access to firearms by offering free, downloadable plans to print and mill working firearms that do not possess serial numbers and cannot be picked up by metal detectors.

In 2013, the federal government determined that Defense Distributed's plans could be used to "automatically find, align and mill" a defense article, such as a firearm, on a 3-D printer or other manufacturing device with considerably less expertise than conventional manufacturing, and prohibited the company from publicly releasing certain plans. In 2015, the company sued, and the federal government defended the decision, arguing that it was "particularly concerned that [the] proposed export of undetectable firearms technology could be used in an assassination, for the manufacture of spare parts by embargoed nations, terrorist groups, or to compromise aviation security overseas in a manner specifically directed at U.S. persons." 

After the federal government's injunction was upheld on appeal earlier this year, the federal government moved to dismiss the case. Yet, mere weeks after moving to dismiss, the federal government abruptly and without legal justification changed course and offered to settle the case by agreeing to give Defense Distributed what it wanted.

"The abject failure of the federal government to support and adopt commonsense gun safety measures continues to put lives at risk," Governor Malloy said. "Untraceable guns that can be made at home – by anyone – represent a real and urgent threat to public safety and our national security. The Trump Administration's deeply disturbing allowance for the online dissemination of step-by-step instructions to make undetectable homemade plastic guns is an extremely dangerous and unconscionable step in the wrong direction. That's why Connecticut must once again step in where the federal government falls miserably short. We cannot and will not permit this irrational and unsafe policy go unchallenged and will continue to fight to protect our residents. We thank Attorney General Jepsen and his team for their partnership and hard-work in this endeavor."

"The action by the federal government is outrageous and flies in the face of the most basic notions of public safety and responsible gun control," said Attorney General Jepsen. "I have grave fears not only for the safety of Connecticut residents but also for our police officers and law enforcement professionals if these plans are allowed to be made public, as absolutely anyone would be able to make and sell untraceable, undetectable plastic guns. The danger of this situation and the path of irrational gun ownership it portends simply cannot be overstated, which is why my colleagues and I have filed a lawsuit today to stop this underhanded, wrong-headed and deeply alarming situation created by the very federal officials who are charged with ensuring our national security and public safety." 

In the settlement, the federal government agreed to pursue a rulemaking excluding plans offered by Defense Distributed now and in the future from federal regulations and to do so on or before July 27, 2018. The government also agreed to specifically advise the company that its plans are approved for public release.  The government announced a proposed rulemaking pursuant to its settlement agreement on May 28, 2018.

The federal government did not notify relevant Congressional committees of its "temporary modification" to regulations as required by federal law, and did not make the settlement agreement public until July 10, 2018, the day after the public comment period on the proposed rulemaking ended.

In today's lawsuit, the states argue that the federal government violated federal law and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and that the government's actions will have far-reaching implications for national security and the safety and security of state residents, including Connecticut residents. 

The states further argue that the government's actions were arbitrary and capricious, and that they effectively tie the hands of state firearms regulators who seek to promote public safety by keeping firearms out of the hands of those who, for various reasons, should not have them. States like Connecticut have comprehensive regulations governing possession, licensing, registration and use of firearms and dangerous weapons that, in some cases, prohibit possession of certain weapons entirely.

In addition to Connecticut, and led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, today's complaint includes the states of Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.

Assistant Attorney General Maura Murphy Osborne is assisting the Attorney General with this matter.

Please click here to view this complaint.


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