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AG Maura Healey joins fight to keep 3-D printed guns off streets

Maura Healey is one of 22 attorneys general involved in the lawsuit.
Maura Healey is one of 22 attorneys general involved in the lawsuit.(Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File 2018)

Attorney General Maura Healey Monday joined a multistate lawsuit against the Trump administration to block public access to downloadable blueprints for plastic, 3-D printed guns, calling the weapons an “imminent threat to public safety.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, seeks to block a recent federal government settlement that would allow the files to be published.

“The federal government is trying to allow access to online plans that will allow anyone to anonymously build their own downloadable, untraceable, and undetectable gun,” Healey said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to ensure that these files are not made easily available to the public.”

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In a letter sent Monday to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Healey and 21 other attorneys general expressed serious concern about the files, which would allow anyone with a 3-D printer access to downloadable guns.

“We believe the settlement terms and proposed rules are deeply dangerous and could have an unprecedented impact on public safety,” they wrote, urging the Trump administration to “withdraw from the settlement immediately.”

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by a company called Defense Distributed, which recently announced it would begin distributing the files Aug. 1.

“As of that point, the files will be, practically speaking, irretrievable, because they will have been posted on the internet — a bell that cannot be un-rung,” the lawsuit alleged.

The company had tried to publish the files in 2013, but the US State Department ordered them scrubbed from the firm’s website. In 2015, Defense Distributed, its founder, Cody Wilson, and the Second Amendment Foundation sued for the right to make the files available online.

“This is both a First Amendment and Second Amendment issue,” said Dave Workman, a spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation. “What appears to be going on right now is an effort to curtail the First Amendment rights of Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed.”

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The 3-D guns available for download are not a danger to the public, Workman said, comparing fears about the plastic guns to the concerns raised “when Glock introduced the polymer frame pistols.”

“It spins the argument into an issue that indicates they don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “No one who has the technology to build one of these things has used one in a crime.”

Healey said that “unrestricted access to this kind of information will increase illegal trafficking of weapons across state and national borders.”

The complaint stated that “3-D printed guns are functional weapons that are often unrecognizable by standard metal detectors because they are made out of materials other than metal (e.g., plastic) and untraceable because they contain no serial numbers.”

The “proliferation of these guns also threatens to cripple the various states’ extensive and comprehensive systems of firearms regulations designed to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” the complaint added.


Aimee Ortiz can be reached at aimee.ortiz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @aimee_ortiz.