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ICYMI: After Deadly Shooting, Boston Globe Editorial Highlights the Trump Administration’s Planned Proliferation of Downloadable Guns

Two weeks after a couple reportedly used a downloadable gun to kill a Rhode Island woman, a new editorial from the Boston Globe highlights the Trump administration’s decision to proliferate online access to downloadable gun schematics. The piece comes little more than a month after the Trump administration moved to make it possible to post downloadable gun schematics online, which would enable anyone––including terrorists, convicted felons, and domestic abusers––to download schematics and 3-D print their own untraceable guns.

In the piece, the Globe Editorial Board makes the case that shifting oversight of small arms from the State Department to Commerce, thus enabling downloadable gun schematics to be posted online, would endanger American lives (emphasis added): 

  • “Caught up in Trump’s plan [to shift oversight of small arms from Commerce to State] are downloadable technical files to print 3D guns. A relatively new technology, 3D printers allow users to manufacture their own devices out of hard plastic using downloadable plans.”
  • “Under the State Department’s regulatory framework, those blueprints could not be posted online, where they would be accessible anywhere in the world, because doing so would violate export laws prohibiting the foreign distribution of guns. That prohibition has had the effect of keeping Americans from easily accessing plans for 3D printed guns, too. But transferring control to Commerce could clear hurdles for undetectable, untraceable 3D-printed guns to be distributed online.”
  • “Commerce has tried to assuage concerns about 3D-printed guns, promising it will require licenses for companies that attempt to post blueprints online. But once the first license is granted, whoever has access to those files will be able to print an unlimited number of undetectable and untraceable weapons with little to no consequence. Imagine that.”
  • “It’s not too late to stop the administration. Congress should step in, by passing legislation that would prevent Trump’s move to ease gun exports and address the threat of downloadable 3D-printed guns.”

The Trump administration’s decision to allow downloadable gun schematics to be posted online, which could become final any day after a 30-day waiting period that ended on December 13th, follows multiple criminal incidents involving downloadable guns. On New Years Day in Rhode Island, a couple used a downloadable gun to murder her ex’s mom. And in February of 2019, a Texas man was sentenced to 8 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. 

The Trump administration can now move any day to finalize the rule shifting oversight of downloadable guns from the State Department to the Department of Commerce. A federal court found the administration’s previous attempt to allow the posting of downloadable gun schematics to be unlawful, deciding 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. 

Despite the court’s ruling and overwhelming opposition from the American people, the Trump administration recently moved forward with its decision to shift oversight of downloadable guns. This follows a multi-year legal battle in which both Obama and Trump’s State Departments successfully argued against the proliferation of downloadable guns. The lawsuit was brought by Defense Distributed, a company run by Cody Wilson––a registered sex offender and self-described anarchist. The legal battle abruptly ended in 2018 when, according to Wired, the Trump administration surprised Defense Distributed by “suddenly offering them a settlement with essentially everything they wanted.”

Experts are available to provide more information on downloadable guns and the litigation.