A frame from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' YouTube video of their 3D printed plastic gun being fired.

Trump questions his own policy on 3-D-printed plastic guns


Donald Trump wrote on Twitter this morning, “I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

What the president may not fully appreciate is that the reason 3-D-printed plastic guns are of significance right now is the result of his own administration’s policy.

The controversy surrounding these weapons is not entirely new. The concern among public-safety advocates has long been that literally anyone with a 3-D printer and related equipment could create guns – firing real bullets – that would be hard to detect, would have no serial numbers, and would be available to anyone, regardless of existing legal restrictions.

Defense Distributed, let by Cody Wilson, is eager to distribute blueprints that would empower individuals to make these weapons, ushering the era of what Wilson’s website describes as “the age of the downloadable gun.” As NBC News reported yesterday, that’s likely to happen, thanks to the Trump administration’s policy.

Under the Obama administration, the State Department sued Wilson, saying his plans would violate laws against exporting firearms technology by putting the instructions into the hands of hostile forces or terrorists.

He sued, claiming a violation of his right of free expression but federal courts ruled against him. But then in June the Trump administration abruptly reversed course and concluded that rules limiting exports of weapons of war don’t apply to Wilson’s guns after all.

The new policy is poised to take effect on Aug. 1 – which is roughly eight hours away on the east coast.

The president’s tweet this morning suggested Trump wasn’t fully aware of what the Trump administration did – and he doesn’t seem convinced that his administration is right.

NBC News’ report added that attorneys general from 20 states appealed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday, “urging them to revoke permission for the downloads. They say the government’s current position is ‘deeply dangerous and could have an unprecedented impact on public safety.”

Evidently, the president seems sympathetic to the concerns – at least if I’m reading “doesn’t seem to make much sense” properly.

As for Trump checking with the National Rifle Association, the group appears to be siding with the administration officials who cleared the way for tomorrow’s shift.

Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman for the N.R.A., mocked Democrats last week for concerns about the 3-D guns, and said that attempts to regulate the technology would be “absolutely unenforceable.” The guns were “what the rest of us call freedom and innovation,” she said in a video segment posted last week on NRATV, the organization’s online video channel.

Why the president felt compelled to reach out to the far-right group, as if the NRA is responsible for overseeing the White House’s position, has not yet been explained.