Gun control groups urge U.S. judge to block 3-D gun blueprints

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AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Gun control groups on Friday made a last-ditch effort to block the Trump administration from allowing Americans access to blueprints for 3-D printable guns on the internet, urging a federal judge to intervene days before the designs are expected to go online.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence want the judge to block a company called Defense Distributed from being allowed to publish online designs for guns.

“The stated goal of Defense Distributed is to sound the death knell for gun control,” David Cabello, a lawyer for the Brady Center told U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman during the hearing in Austin, Texas.

The groups in court filings said not halting the blueprint distribution would “cause immediate and irreparable harm to the United States national security” and that of individual U.S. citizens.

The files include blueprints for plastic AR-15 rifles, the type of semi-automatic weapon used in many U.S. mass shootings, as well as a pistol and another assault rifle.

Joshua Blackman, a lawyer for Texas-based Defense Distributed, said the gun control groups were trying to litigate a political dispute in court.

Pitman said he was sympathetic to the gun control groups’ concerns but questioned on what grounds the advocacy groups could intervene in the case.

“This is simply a settlement between two parties and it involves ongoing litigation,” Pitman said.

At issue is a June settlement between Defense Distributed and the U.S. State Department that allows the company to legally publish gun blueprints online, something its website says it plans to do by Aug. 1.

Defense Distributed, founded by self-declared Texas anarchist Cody Wilson, in an online video said its blueprints were downloaded more than 400,000 times before the U.S. State Department in 2013 ordered him to take the files down.

Wilson fought the U.S. government by filing a 2015 lawsuit, saying the government was violating free speech and the right to bear arms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Since then, the government has prevailed in court, winning at trial and later on appeal. As recently as April, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department was still asking the judge to dismiss Wilson’s lawsuit, saying the online instructions posed a national security risk.

The gun advocacy groups said there has been no explanation for the June settlement and the administration’s abrupt reversal on the issue.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin; Writing by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas

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