WASHINGTON — Lawmakers have called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to try to stop a Trump administration settlement that would allow the free posting of 3-D gun blueprints online, arguing it’s a national security issue that could put more guns in the hands of terrorists.
In 2013, University of Texas law student Cody Wilson posted digital blueprints for a 3-D printable handgun; Wilson’s nonprofit, Defense Distributed, has since expanded its range of offerings. The State Department entered a legal battle with Wilson after ordering him to take down the blueprints, arguing that they were essentially a violation of arms export statutes since they were available for download overseas.
In June, the Trump State Department settled with Wilson and agreed to suspend relevant International Trafficking in Arms Regulations provisions, clearing the way for the gun blueprints to be publicly released Aug. 1.
“All this Parkland stuff, the students, all these dreams of ‘common sense gun reforms’? No. The internet will serve guns, the gun is downloadable.” Wilson told Wired. “No amount of petitions or die-ins or anything else can change that.”
In a Wednesday letter to Pompeo, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) declared that the State Department was “about to permit the public, worldwide release of dangerous information on the 3D printing of functional firearms that are undetectable by standard security measures.”
“Such a release would allow any foreign or domestic person, including arms traffickers, terrorists, transnational criminals, and domestic abusers to effectively ‘download’ a gun, making it much easier to evade security measures and obtain a weapon. This decision is not only alarming and irresponsible, but one that appears to evade statutory requirements and skirts an ongoing regulatory review process,” he wrote.
Menendez said that even though the State Department branded the ITAR suspension as temporary, it “will effectively allow a permanent and continuing export” as “once posted on the Internet, these files will be shared, downloaded, and used to create firearms.”
“As such, this action is tantamount to a permanent removal of an item from theUnited States Munitions List, but without the 30-day notice to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee as required by the Arms Export Control Act,” he added. “…Any release should not occur until the Department, Congress, and the public have ample time to review the consequences of this action.”
“The release of these blueprints permits anyone, even those banned from gun ownership due to a criminal conviction, to build their own gun. These ‘ghost guns’ also pose a problem for law enforcement as such firearms lack a serial number and are thus untraceable.”
At Pompeo’s Wednesday appearance before the Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez asked about the “administration’s incoherent and contradictory views.”
“Why on earth would the Trump administration make it easier for terrorists and gunmen to produce undetectable plastic guns?” he asked.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) later added, “I don’t think that we really want to be in a world where Hamas in the Gaza has an ability to download a capacity for an AR-15 that could endanger security in that region and the same thing could happen around the world. I asked the State Department to please reconsider this decision. I think it has long-term national security and domestic security considerations for our country.”
“You have my commitment — I’ll take a look at it,” Pompeo vowed.