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Several States Push Back On 3D-Printable Gun Access


Pennsylvania is one of the states pushing back on access to these 3D gun blueprints. It's joined the lawsuit against the Trump administration and Defense Distributed that aims to stop the online publication of these files, and it's blocked downloads of the blueprints in Pennsylvania at least temporarily.

Josh Shapiro is the state's Democratic attorney general. He joins us now. Welcome to the program.

JOSH SHAPIRO: Good to be with you.

CORNISH: First, I want you to respond to what we just heard in reporter Matt Largey's report that, quote, "it's always been legal to make your own guns at home; all you need is the right equipment and skills" and that essentially what's happening here is nothing new.

SHAPIRO: I think that's fundamentally a flawed analysis. Here's the reality. In Pennsylvania, we have state laws that says who can own a gun and under what condition. For example, you can't be a minor. And if you're an adult trying to purchase a gun, you have to go through a background check system.

Think of this. If these blueprints are shared widely across the Internet and made available to pretty much anyone who owns a $140, $150 3D printer, you could have criminals, terrorists, children, others who legally are not permitted to buy a gun in Pennsylvania or in most other states be able to simply print one out instead.

It skirts state laws. It violates them. And it is fundamentally a public safety menace. And it's something that I feel compelled as the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to stand up and try to stop. That's why we're fighting in court. That's why we were able to secure, you know, the ability to block this code temporarily in Pennsylvania.

CORNISH: Right. I want to jump in here and ask a question about that. Defense Distributed has agreed to block access to blueprints of 3D-printable guns in your state. But frankly, once people in other states download these blueprints and print their guns, how - realistically - I mean, realistically, how can you keep these untraceable weapons out of Pennsylvania?

SHAPIRO: I think you're exactly right. I don't think that the result we were able to secure in an emergency hearing on Sunday night to block it just in Pennsylvania is ultimately the answer. I mean, the Internet clearly knows no state bounds. It is something that we need a national standard for. It's why I'm in court together with nine of my colleague attorneys general right now in Seattle, Wash., in a case there to try and seek a national injunction and why we'll be back at it later this week in a federal court in Pennsylvania to do the same.

CORNISH: You have gun rights advocates saying that this isn't going to make a big impact because 3D printers are still pretty expensive and that 3D-printed guns don't hold up very well. What's your response to that?

SHAPIRO: Gun right advocates say to me all the time, enforce the laws on the books. Protect our rights. Well, I do protect their Second Amendment rights to bear arms. It's fundamental to the work that I do. I also support people's rights not to be shot in their neighborhoods and to be safe and secure in their communities. And I have a responsibility as the chief law enforcement officer of Pennsylvania to enforce our laws on the books.

So why should I allow someone to - from Texas to come into Pennsylvania and say to criminals and terrorists and others who can't legally buy a gun in Pennsylvania, hey, here's the way you can just simply print it out and get around our state laws? I've got a responsibility to enforce the laws on the books here in Pennsylvania, and that's exactly what I'm doing.

CORNISH: So I'm not hearing any middle ground here, the idea that somehow Defense Distributed might be able to exercise its right to put the information online, it's just information at this point versus having some sort of checks on the people who download it.

SHAPIRO: If people prefer to download their gun as opposed to buying it at the store and they're willing to go through all of the background checks and all of the different - you know, comport with all of the different state laws that we have in place in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I'll certainly engage in that discussion. But with - what this company in Texas is doing right now is trying to skirt our state laws. And it will make us all less safe.

CORNISH: Josh Shapiro is the attorney general of Pennsylvania. Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

SHAPIRO: Good to be with you.


And this evening, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order stopping the release of blueprints for 3D guns. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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