RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, along with 20 other state attorneys general, sued the federal government Thursday in an effort to stop the spread of online blueprints for 3-D printed firearms.
“Letting anyone have access to these files, and thus the ability to create undetectable, untraceable guns to hurt others, is a major threat to public safety,” said Stein. “I will continue to fight to prevent the federal government from making these blueprints available to anyone and everyone.”
Dangerous plastic “ghost guns” – which are unregistered and hard to detect by airport metal detectors – can be printed for under $1000 in as little as two to three days, according to Steven Gray, the president of MakerSpace Charlotte. The non-profit workspace allows members to pay a monthly fee to access equipment like 3-D printers and laser cutters.
Gray says he has received several calls from people interested in making weapons, which they don’t allow.
“That’s the danger of any technology,” he said. “There’s good applications and there’s bad applications.”
Inside the workspace, a 3-D printer was buzzing making a gear. Gray showed off a prosthetic hand that was 3-D printed, an engine model, and even someone’s head that was scanned and shrunken down.
He calls the lawsuit “noble” but doesn’t think it will help.
“It might make it more challenging for someone to do it [print ‘ghost gun’],” he said. “But, ultimately, if you’re motivated enough, I don’t think it’s really going to have an impact.”
Stein accuses the Trump administration of taking steps that would transfer regulations of 3-D printed guns from the State Department to the Commerce Department which, “effectively allowing…unlimited distribution” of “ghost gun” instruction manuals.
In 2015, the online company Defense Distributed, sued the Obama administration after being forced to take its 3-D firearm blueprints off the internet. In 2018, the Trump administration settled the lawsuit by allowing “unlimited public distribution on the internet of downloadable files for 3-D printed guns,” Stein said.
Stein joined a multistate lawsuit that same year and was able to temporarily stop the release of the files. New Jersey banned “ghost guns” in 2018. At the time Gov. Phil Murphy called them a “dangerous loophole.”
South Carolina is not part of the lawsuit.
Gray worries the firearm blueprints could pop up in other countries, and still able to be accessed in the US, even if they are banned.
“The plans could be copied overseas and downloaded anywhere,” said Gray. “So, it’s kind of a game of whack-a-mole, really.”
Read more about the lawsuit here.