- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 1, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House said Wednesday that the Justice Department did not consult President Donald Trump when officials dropped litigation that would have prevented the posting of instructions on how to make 3D-printed plastic guns, which are illegal to own or assemble.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Justice Department “made a deal without the president’s approval,” referring to a settlement reached by the State Department in June. State acted on the advice of Justice Department lawyers.

President Donald Trump has questioned whether his administration should have agreed to allow the plans to be posted online.

The internal rift came after a federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday to stop the release of blueprints to make the untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed plastic guns. The company behind the plans, Austin, Texas-based Defense Distributed, had reached a settlement with the federal government in late June allowing it to make the plans for the guns available for download on Wednesday.

Sanders said the president was “glad this effort was delayed” so he can review the material. Sanders added that the administration supports the long-standing law against owning plastic guns.

The State Department’s initial action triggered an onslaught of criticism about the possible proliferation of potentially lethal 3D-printed weapons.

Eight Democratic attorneys general had filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the settlement. They also sought the restraining order, arguing the 3D guns would be a safety risk. Congressional Democrats have urged President Donald Trump to reverse the decision to publish the plans.

Josh Blackman, a lawyer representing the company behind the 3D-printed gun, said Wednesday that Defense Distributed may appeal the restraining order.

“We are disappointed by the court’s ruling, which imposes a global prior restraint on free speech,” Blackman said.

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the State Department got involved in the issue because the online plans can be accessed worldwide.

“The State Department wants to prevent the wrong people from acquiring weapons overseas,” she said, adding that the Justice Department recommended that the government settle the case “based on First Amendment grounds” allowing publication of the detailed plans.

“We took the advice of the Department of Justice, and here we are right now,” Nauert said Tuesday.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that he was “looking into” the controversy and said making 3D plastic guns available to the public “doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Trump tweeted that he had spoken with the National Rifle Association about the issue. The guns are made of a hard plastic and are simple to assemble, easy to conceal and difficult to trace.

People can use the blueprints to manufacture plastic guns using a 3D printer. But industry experts have expressed doubts that criminals would go to the trouble, since the printers needed to make the guns can cost thousands of dollars, the guns themselves tend to disintegrate quickly and traditional firearms are easy to come by.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was concerned that distribution of the blueprints could allow terrorists and international criminal organizations to manufacture guns that can’t be detected. He urged the Trump administration and Congress to act swiftly to prevent sensitive technical data from getting into the wrong hands.

“It is critical that our laws keep pace with technology. We can’t give terrorists or violent criminals an easier path to obtaining deadly weapons,” Royce said.


Associated Press writer Martha Bellisle in Seattle contributed to this report.

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