20 US states have launched legal action against President Trump's administration in a bid to prevent 3D printer blueprints for guns being published online.
Weapons made in this way are referred to as “ghost guns” because they don't have serial numbers. Democrats, who are behind the lawsuit, say that their proliferation would bring about more violence.
Until now, the US State Department had control over the blueprints used to produce 3D printed guns, but the Trump administration wants to transfer it to the Commerce Department, which critics say would facilitate access to the technology necessary to make such guns, and weaken the government's powers when it comes to exports of weapons.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, came after a US district judge decided in early November to prevent the administration from allowing nonprofit Defense Distributed to publish blueprints for 3D printed guns. This open-source organization in 2015 sued the Obama administration for ordering it to remove downloadable files for 3D printed guns from the internet.
The judge, Robert Lasnik, said allowing these files back on the web would allow terrorists and criminals to get their hands on weapons and threaten both the country's foreign policy, and national security.
But gun rights activists are saying that these warnings exaggerate the actual effect that making these blueprints available on the internet would have.
The 20 states' lawsuit came the same day the US administration filed a rule with the Federal Register that said oversight of certain types of firearms would be transferred from the State Department to the Department of Commerce.
The move has been supported in the past by the National Rifle Association (NRA) who said it would boost US manufacturers' presence in foreign markets and benefit the US economy.
And while the new rule pushed by the Trump administration still requires those publishing the blueprints to first get a license from the Department of Commerce, the states that are suing in the hope of delaying or stopping the plan altogether claim there are “potential loopholes” in this regulation that would undermine the licensing process.
Digital rights group The EFF has said of 3D printed guns:
“EFF will continue to protect your freedom to teach one another new skills and share code with each other, so that others can learn and benefit from your ingenuity. We will continue to protect your freedom to advocate for ideas the government labels as dangerous. Not because we agree with every idea that’s out there, but because of the clear danger posed by a government that grants itself unbridled power to decide whose ideas are dangerous and what knowledge should be deleted from the Internet.”