A Trump-Appointed Judge Clears the Way for Global Online Trafficking of Unregistered Weapons
A Texas organization, Defense Distributed, has posted plans online to help anyone—including terrorists and criminals—make plastic guns that can’t be traced.
The move came after Trump-appointed federal Judge Ryan Nelson wrote an April decision for the three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals clearing the way for sales of the gun plans. Judge Robert Whaley dissented.
“Congress expressly precluded review of the relevant agency actions here,” wrote Nelson, a longtime member of the Federalist Society.
Buyers of the gun plans don’t have to undergo background checks. The guns don’t have serial numbers so they can’t be traced.
Our nation already has the 32nd-highest death rate from gun violence in the world, almost four deaths per 100,000 people in 2019. The highest death rate in the United States is the District of Columbia with 18.5 deaths per 100,000.
If deaths due to armed conflict are excluded, the United States’ record is worse than even nations like Lebanon and Afghanistan. The countries with higher gun death rates in the United States are countries troubled by gangs and drug trafficking like El Salvador and Guatemala.
President Joe Biden has said he could take executive action to limit the availability of 3D guns.
In June, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced the 3D Printed Gun Safety Act which would prohibit distributing blueprints and instructions online for printing guns.
The State Department previously argued that the proliferation of 3D-printed guns could provide terrorist and criminal organizations with access to dangerous firearms. But under Trump, who had at least $16.3 million in help from the National Rifle Association in his reelection effort, the department flip-flopped.
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia sued the Trump administration in January 2020 to block the plans from being posted online. They said 3D-printed guns would seriously compromise security in places like courthouses, schools, prisons, airports and stadiums that rely on standard metal detectors.
Arkansas native Cody Wilson, an English major who dropped out of law school, founded Defense Distributed. Wilson is also a registered sex offender because he plead guilty to injury to a child, a felony, in a case involving a 16-year-old girl. He can’t buy or sell weapons at gun stores.
Defense Distributed contends that its blueprint files are a form of speech and efforts to block their release violate the First Amendment. Its supporters include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
The district judge, Richard Jones, had ordered a preliminary injunction in the case, writing that “the proliferation of 3-D gun files on the internet likely renders ineffective arms embargoes, export controls, and other measures used to restrict the availability of uniquely dangerous weapons.”