WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday raised concerns about the sale of plastic guns made with 3-D printers, a day after several U.S. states sued his administration to block online publication of designs to make weapons that security screening may not detect.
Eight states and the District of Columbia on Monday filed a lawsuit to fight a June settlement between the federal government and Defense Distributed allowing the Texas-based company to legally publish its designs. Its downloadable plans were initially set to go online on Wednesday, but the files were already uploaded on Friday, court filings showed.
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, filed a bill in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to block publication of 3-D printed gun blueprints, saying the weapons can evade detection systems and are “a direct threat to our national security.”
Trump said on Twitter that he had talked with the powerful National Rifle Association lobbying group about the weapons.
“I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public,” he said. “Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense.”
Trump offered no further explanation of where he stood on the issue of making the designs available online or whether the administration could reverse its position before Wednesday.
NRA officials were not available for comment.
Gun control proponents are concerned the weapons made from 3-D printers are untraceable, undetectable “ghost” firearms that pose a threat to global security. Some gun rights groups say the technology is expensive, the guns are unreliable and the threat is being overblown.
The legal wrangling is the latest fight over gun rights in the United States, where a series of mass shootings in recent years has re-ignited the long-simmering debate over access to firearms.
The states that filed suit are asking U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle to issue an injunction to block the online distribution of the gun blueprints. They say the U.S. government has failed to study the national and state security implications of the decision and violated states’ rights to regulate firearms.
A hearing in the case before Lasnik is set for 2 p.m. local time (2100 GMT).
Josh Blackman, a lawyer for Defense Distributed, said the case was not about guns but about protecting the constitutional free speech rights of his client.
“I don’t care what President Trump says. I will be arguing to protect my client’s First Amendment rights,” he said on Tuesday.
Defense Distributed’s website said it would publish the files on Wednesday but blueprints for seven guns already were available for download.
Blackman said in court filings that the group had begun uploading the blueprints on Friday, adding that any claims by states over an imminent risk and the need for injunctive relief had “dissipated.”
The states, in their filing on Monday, argued the online plans will give criminals easy access to weapons by circumventing traditional sales and regulations.
Some gun rights advocates said a ban would infringe on their rights and have no impact on crime.
“By prohibiting those plans from going on to the Internet, you are not stopping criminals from getting their hands on guns,” said David Amad, vice president of the gun rights group Open Carry Texas.
The gun plans were pulled from the internet in 2013 by order of the U.S. State Department under international gun trafficking laws. Wilson sued in 2015, claiming the order infringed his constitutional rights.
Wilson said in an online video that the blueprints were downloaded more than 400,000 times before they were taken down in 2013.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Susan Cornwell in Washington, DC, Tina Bellon in New York and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott and James Dalgleish)