Menendez Calls on Secretary Pompeo to Stop Online Posting of Do-it-Yourself, 3-D Printable Gun Blueprints

Menendez Calls on Secretary Pompeo to Stop Online Posting of Do-it-Yourself, 3-D Printable Gun Blueprints

Sudden settlement by State Department will allow public release of 3-D printable firearm plans starting August 1 Ghost guns are untraceable, no background check required

   

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today called on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to immediately intervene and review the surprising and sudden decision by his department to allow online public posting of 3-D printable gun blueprints in the next few days.   

“It is hard to see how making it easier for criminal and terrorist organizations to obtain untraceable weapons is in the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States,” said Sen. Menendez in a letter to Secretary Pompeo.  “Moreover, the domestic risk cannot be understated, especially with the high rates of gun violence in our schools, churches, clubs and public gathering places.”   

Late last month, the Department of State suddenly settled a years-long lawsuit brought by gun activist Cody Wilson that began after the federal government blocked his company’s website, Defense Distributed, for posting directions for a 3-D plastic printable pistol, citing international export law.  According to news reports, as part of the settlement, the State Department will allow the company to begin posting do-it-yourself 3-D printable firearms blueprints by issuing a special exemption by July 27.

The Senator called on Pompeo to immediately review and reconsider the Department’s position, asserting it runs afoul of federal law:  “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 the United 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.”

A copy of the letter is below. 

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

The full letter is here and below:

The Department of State is 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.

Recently, the Department settled a lawsuit by a U.S. firm seeking to post blueprints and other information on the Internet that would allow anyone with a 3D printer to create plastic firearms.  Based on reports of the terms of the settlement, the Department has now agreed that the information can be exempt from the export licensing requirements of the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR).  Even more troubling, the Department also agreed to temporarily suspend the relevant ITAR restrictions to allow this otherwise prohibited dissemination.

Yet this “temporary” suspension will effectively allow a permanent and continuing export.  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.

It is hard to see how making it easier for criminal and terrorist organizations to obtain untraceable weapons is in the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States.  This action by the State Department makes the work of U.S. and international law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies—and the U.S. Transportation Security Agency—all the more difficult and heightens the risk to innocent Americans and others from terrorist and extremist attacks.  Moreover, the domestic risk cannot be understated, especially with the high rates of gun violence in our schools, churches, clubs and public gathering places.  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. 

Given the far-reaching and dangerous consequences of this decision, I urge you to immediately review and reconsider the Department’s position, and to ensure that this and any other decision regarding arms export control complies fully with the letter and spirit of the Arms Export Control Act.  Further, any release should not occur until the Department, Congress, and the public have ample time to review the consequences of this action.

Sincerely,