Here’s a premise straight from a spy novel or an action thriller: A mysterious cabal sends a scientist a slick, lavishly illustrated instruction manual describing how to build a strange device that turns out to be a terrible weapon.
The reality is much more upsetting. A small, innocuously named company, Defense Distributed, is allowed to disseminate instruction manuals that can be published on 3-D printers. The instructions? How to build your own weapons, including outlawed assault rifles.
New York has joined seven other states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit against the Trump administration seeking to stop companies like Defense Distributed from publishing instructions for building do-it-yourself firearms using 3-D printers available to the public on the internet.
With the arrogance expected of such a company, Defense Distributed sued the U.S. State Department in 2015 after the department compelled the company to remove its 3-D instruction manuals from the internet. The State Department argued that Defense Distributed violated federal export regulations governing sensitive military hardware and technology.
The State Department won trial and appeals court victories over Defense Distributed, but the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Now, here’s the big jolt: The Trump administration settled the case with a bullet of its own June 29 when the federal government agreed to pay Defense Distributed $40,000 for legal fees. That was all it took. Defense Distributed immediately announced it would make its 3-D weapons diagrams available on the internet no later than Wednesday.
We’ve heard every man (or company, or government) has his price, but $40,000 paid by the government to a defendant to settle a case of this magnitude is outrageous, not to mention the insanity of giving potential terrorists or mass murderers the tools to build their own untraceable and undetectable weapons at the touch of keyboard.
In a more sensible world, Congress at the federal level, along with governors and state legislatures, would put an end to this charade and make the Trump administration accountable to the public and not a tool of the gun lobby.
As calls grow louder for action against gun violence, the Trump administration wants to put more guns in the hands of criminals, terrorists and mass killers by making how-to manuals as close as a push-button. No credible presidential administration, Republican or Democratic, would allow do-it-yourself weapons-making, especially the building of illegal assault rifles, to continue. The Trump administration’s actions in this case are inexcusable.