Judge blocks release of blueprints for 3-D-printed guns


Staff/wire report

SEATTLE

A federal judge Tuesday stopped the release of blueprints to make untraceable and undetectable 3-D-printed plastic guns as President Donald Trump questioned whether his administration should have agreed to allow the plans to be posted online.

The company behind the plans, Austin, Texas-based Defense Distributed, had reached a settlement with the federal government in June allowing it to make the plans for the guns available for download today.

The Youngstown Business Incubator has numerous additive manufacturing companies in its portfolio and also is home to America Makes, an additive manufacturing hub managed and operated by the National Center for Defense, Manufacturing and Machining.

YBI CEO Barb Ewing said the use of 3-D printing to produce weapons is not a new topic of conversation.

“This has been part of the discussion around additive manufacturing since the beginning,” she said.

“With every technology, you are going to have upsides and downsides, and this is one of those possibilities that comes with the developments of new products.”

She noted, for example, the applications that followed the splitting of the atom – nuclear energy as well as nuclear weapons.

“It’s not whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing – it’s one of the byproducts of the development of a new technology,” she added.

“It’s up to every individual person to decide whether this is a positive or a negative.”

The restraining order from U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle puts the release of 3-D blueprints for guns on hold for now.

“There is a possibility of irreparable harm because of the way these guns can be made,” he said.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson called the ruling “a complete, total victory.”

“We were asking for a nationwide temporary restraining order putting a halt to this outrageous decision by the federal government to allow these 3-D downloadable guns to be available around our country and around the world. He granted that relief,” Ferguson said at a news conference after the hearing. “That is significant.”

Eight Democratic attorneys general had filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the settlement. They also sought the restraining order, arguing the 3-D guns would be a safety risk.

Congressional Democrats have urged President Donald Trump to reverse the decision to publish the plans.

Trump said Tuesday he’s “looking into” the idea, saying making 3-D plastic guns available to the public “doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Brett Conner, chief technology officer for Freshmade 3D, a YBI portfolio company, said many companies such as his are not looking to pursue this application of 3-D-printing technology because so many factors are up in the air.

“The big things, from our perspective, are the safety issues with this and the legal issues that are unresolved,” he said.

He said the safety issue is a big concern because most 3-D printing operations are not capable of safely printing a gun.

“Most 3-D printers and the materials are going to be too weak to handle a firearms application,” he said.

“Trying to 3D-print a firearm could end up with someone getting seriously hurt.”

In terms of the accessibility of the technology, Conner said the 3-D printing operations that are most accessible to members of the public would likely be the least suitable for this application.

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