Based on What Law?

Federal District Judge Robert Lasnik of the Western District of Washington has blocked, temporarily, the online distribution of blueprints for printing 3-D guns.  Lasnik’s temporary restraining order is subsequent to a settlement reached between Defense Distributed and State (which previously had blocked the posting of the plans) that functionally set aside State’s security objections to the posting.  The State of Washington, et al., then sued to reinstate the prior block.

In decrying the settlement that’s the subject of his TRO, Lasik wrote

the parties reached a tentative settlement agreement which, as described in the first paragraph of this order, will allow Defense Distributed to place downloadable CAD files for automated weapons printing on its website. No findings of fact or other statements are provided in the agreement that could explain the federal government’s dramatic change of position or that alter its prior analysis regarding the likely impacts of publication on the United States’ national security interests.


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….

Regardless of the merits of these concerns, though, they are political concerns, not judicial ones.  Lasik was wrong to intrude himself into the matter rather than referring it to the political arms of our government.

Illustrating the irrationality of a judge intruding into inherently political matters, Lasnik also wrote [cites omitted]

Under the Arms Export Control Act (“AECA”), the President of the United States is authorized “to control the import and the export of defense articles and defense services” “[i]n furtherance of world peace and the security and foreign policy of the United States.” “Defense articles and defense services” includes all firearms up to .50 caliber and all technical data related to such firearms, including information that “is required for the design, development, production, manufacture, assembly, operation, repair, testing, maintenance or modification of” the firearms.

Replicas of Hawkin muzzle-loading rifles are of .50 caliber, or less.  Would Lasnik seriously entertain blocking export or import of these, too?

On the other hand, there’s this:

Some firearms experts played down the danger of these guns, saying most 3-D printers use materials that aren’t strong enough to produce a reliable firearm.

This is irrelevant.  The technology surely will evolve, and full-up, durable and reliable weapons will become 3-D printable, and the printers involved will come down in cost.  What is relevant here is the principle of the matter: should a US citizen be able to exercise his rights under our Bill of Rights and post such plans, or not?

Lasnik’s TRO can be seen here.

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