3D printed guns ‘the height of insanity,’ NJ attorney general says
NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says New Jersey’s effort to prevent more widespread distribution of the digital codes needed to create do-it-yourself guns on 3D printers is about public safety, not curtailing the First or Second amendments.
Grewal on Wednesday addressed two courtroom developments from a day earlier. One was an agreement made binding in state court that Defense Distributed wouldn’t publish new codes until a September court hearing. The other was a federal court directive in Washington state barring the instructions from being posted online, at least until an Aug. 10 hearing.
“These guns, which have no serial numbers, are not traceable by law enforcement, are dangerous. There’s really no other way to characterize them,” Grewal said.
“No matter how hard they try to spin it, this case is not about the First Amendment,” Grewal said. “We are not trying to stop anyone from speaking out or even speaking about making guns. We’re trying to stop someone from giving out the codes that automatically make these guns via 3D printer. That’s deadly conduct. It’s not speech.”
“Nor is this case about the Second Amendment, despite their spin,” he said. “We are not preventing anyone in this state who can lawfully obtain a firearms from obtaining a lawful firearm.”
Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson characterized the New Jersey court development differently, saying the state was thwarted in its effort "to issue a nationwide takedown" of his website. The site later went dark due to the federal court order.
Grewal said Defense Distributed had published 10 digital files – two codes to print a gun and eight blueprints. He said the court decisions prevent him from publishing codes for assault rifles and other dangerous weapons.
He said “these printable gun codes are a threat” and acknowledged other sites could pop up that distribute the same or similar files. Versions of the files have existed for years, a fact that critics of the litigation point out.
“It well may be, but I’m committed to playing Whac-A-Mole when it comes to public safety,” Grewal said. “And to the extent other websites come to our attention, we’ll take the same position with respect to them."
Manufacturing undetectable firearms is already prohibited by federal law. Printing a 3D firearm can costs hundreds or thousands of dollars and could take hours or days to assemble. They also are not as reliable or as durable as a traditional firearm.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who is currently the acting governor because Gov. Phil Murphy is out of the country on vacation, said she saw the military capabilities of 3D printers in a visit last year to the U.S. Army’s Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County.
“I saw the process of using the 3D technology to produce many of the items that our military uses in combat,” Oliver said. “We do not need to have the public gaining access to the ability to replicate and create the types of things that I saw up at our research and development arm.”
Grewal said 3D printers are not terribly expensive but that he doesn’t know how many exist in New Jersey. Many technical schools have them, he said.
“We can’t roll over and allow this to be out in the public domain and allow it to be easy for criminals to hit print and make a weapon,” he said. “I can control the distribution of firearms, but I can’t control the distribution of printers.”
Grewal said the federal government had consistently prevailed for five years in its efforts to block Defense Distributed from publishing the codes and blueprints, then relented in April.
“When the federal stands down on its obligations, New Jersey stands up,” Grewal said. “And we’ll stand up for the rest of the country, and we’ll stand up for law enforcement officers across the state.”
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he’s looking into the 3D guns technology, which he said “doesn’t seem to make much sense!”
“As much as a presidential tweet can reassure me, it does,” Grewal said. “But what he also says is that none of this makes sense. And I wholeheartedly agree with him that none of this makes sense. It is the height of insanity to allow these codes to be out there where anyone without restriction can print these firearms.”