DEFCAD, the world’s best-known online repository for 3D-printed gun files went dark on Tuesday evening, in the wake of a decision by a federal judge in Seattle, who granted a temporary restraining order hours earlier.
“If an injunction is not issued and the status quo alters at midnight tonight, the proliferation of these firearms will have many of the negative impacts on a state level that the federal government once feared on the international stage,” US District Judge Robert Lasnik wrote in his order.
“Against this hardship is a delay in lifting regulatory restrictions to which Defense Distributed has been subject for over five years: the balance of hardships and the public interest tip sharply in plaintiffs’ favor.”
The ruling came one day after eight states announced that they would try to prevent Defense Distributed, the Texas-based group behind DEFCAD, from publishing CAD files of firearms after a recent legal settlement with the US State Department.
But their efforts came days after Defense Distributed had already released files for 10 different firearms, most of which were downloaded thousands of times. On Monday, Ars downloaded four of the files, including designs for an AR-15 rifle. Earlier versions of the DEFCAD files remain available on both domestic and overseas sites, including The Pirate Bay, as they have for five years.
The eight musketeers
The eight states involved in the lawsuit include: Washington, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and also the District of Columbia. A total of 20 states (and DC) have sent a separate letter expressing their support, but for now, only the group lead by Washington is officially part of the lawsuit.
“These ghost guns are untraceable, virtually undetectable and, without today’s victory, available to any felon, domestic abuser or terrorist,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “I hope the President does the right thing and directs his administration to change course.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey expressed similar support.
“Today’s win against the Trump Administration is just the first step,” she said in a statement. “We will keeping fighting to stop this Administration from allowing criminals and terrorists to build untraceable and undetectable guns at home with the click of a mouse.”
Earlier in the day, lawyers representing the Department of State filed a brief arguing that it had no control over domestic firearms policy—the settlement that Defense Distributed had reached with the State Department only concerned foreign distribution of those files.
The ruling by Judge Lasnik was handed down hours after a state judge in New Jersey ordered Defense Distributed to block residents of the Garden State from accessing the site, and agree not to upload any new designs. DEFCAD remained up for around 90 hours before the files were removed.
In the wake of the site’s temporary closure, Wilson posted this message to DEFCAD:
This site, after legally committing its files to the public domain through a license from the U.S. Department of State, has been ordered shut down by a federal judge in the Western District of Washington.
Join us to uncensor the site.
The latter is a link to the site’s “membership” page.
A spokesman for President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association both reminded the public on Tuesday that a 1988 law, the Undetectable Firearms Act, which was signed by President Ronald Reagan, makes wholly plastic guns illegal. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives issued a similar advisory in September 2016.
However, Democrats in Congress say that this law, which was renewed in 2013, is easy to thwart.
“In extending that ban, however, Congress did not mandate which parts of the gun had to be metal—creating a legal loophole that allows people to attach a small removable piece of metal to an otherwise fully-plastic gun,” the office of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“These detachable metal clips can often be easily removed before entering a security screening area and reattached again after to meet the law’s requirement. In addition to the legislation Nelson and others filed today to block the publication of the blueprints that can be used to make 3D-printed guns, Nelson and a separate group of lawmakers also introduced legislation today that would, among other things, require that every firearm have at least one main component (e.g. the frame or barrel) made of metal.”
For now, those bills do not seem anywhere close to coming to the floor of the Senate (one was already denied), much less being signed into law anytime soon.
The State of Washington and the Department of State are due back in federal court in Seattle on August 10.