Do 3D-printed guns work and why have they been blocked in the US?

Controversial weapon plans were due to released publicly later today

A US judge has blocked the release of plans for 3-D-printed guns
A US judge this week banned the process of uploading blueprints for 3D printed guns
(Image credit: Robert MacPherson/AFP/Getty Images)

A US federal judge has blocked the release of blueprints that provide instructions for the manufacture of 3D-printed guns, only a couple of hours before the plans were due to be released to the public.

US District Court Judge Robert Lasnik has sided with eight Democratic attorneys general to block the release of the plans, despite the fact that the company behind the plans – Texas-based Defense Distributed – had already won approval in court to release them.

The question of whether Defense Distributed had the right to publicly release the plans has been at the centre of a years-long controversy, with anti-gun activists concerned that the so-called “ghost guns” - which can be printed at home and work like regular guns - would be untraceable, and easy to construct by anyone with access to the right technology.

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“All you need is a little money and you can download a blueprint from the internet to make a gun at home. No background check. No criminal history check,” senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said.

However, following a lengthy court battle that Defense Distributed fought with the assistance of the Second Amendment Foundation, a pro-firearms group that defends the right to own guns, the company reached an agreement with the US state department to allow their release.

The BBC reports that despite the official deadline for the release of the plans was supposed to be today, “more than 1,000 people have downloaded the files for building an AR-15 rifle – the same gun used in many of America's mass shootings – since Friday”.

Similarly, plans for a 3D-printed handgun were made public in 2013 and were downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, before the US state department ordered them to be removed from the internet.

Critics of the ban, including the National Rifle Association, have pointed out that it is currently “unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive an undetectable firearm”, the Washington Post says.

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