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AG Nessel in support of states’ right to enforce laws against 3D-printed gun files

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel(Office of the Michigan Attorney General)
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 3:52 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - State Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined other attorney generals to challenge a lawsuit that seeks to stop states from enforcing their laws against a company disseminating dangerous 3D-printed gun files on the internet.

In an amicus brief in Grewal v. Defense Distributed before the U.S. Supreme Court, the group seeks to protect states’ efforts to stop Defense Distributed from unlawfully publishing internet files that provide instructions to build unregistered 3D-printed firearms, including assault weapons. Unfortunately, these specific firearms are difficult to detect, even with a metal detector, and can be quite dangerous.

Together, the coalition argues that cease and desist letters are cost-effective and can help enforce state laws. State officials cannot protect their residents from violations of their own state’s laws by such entities without being able to send cease and desist letters out of state. Also, the group of attorney generals argue that the Fifth Circuit did not account for critical state-sovereignty and federalism considerations when it found that the Texas courts had personal jurisdiction over New Jersey — in violation of longstanding Supreme Court precedent set out in cases, such as World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson.

The coalition makes clear that permitting suits in such circumstances — as the Fifth Circuit did here — forces a state official to risk expensive lawsuits.

“Despite law enforcement efforts, Defense Distributed continues to recklessly, and illegally, make 3D-printed firearms easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection,” Nessel said. “These so-called ‘ghost guns’ are unregistered and untraceable, making them especially dangerous. States must have the ability to enforce our own laws and use the tools at our disposal to fight back against these illegal efforts in order to protect our communities.”

A number of state and local officials sent the company cease and desist letters ordering the company to stop breaking state laws. Defense Distributed then sued the officials in federal court in Texas, but ultimately only pursued its case against New Jersey’s attorney general. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that Texas courts had personal jurisdiction over New Jersey’s attorney general, he petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the case.

The coalition asks the Supreme Court to review the Fifth Circuit’s decision, and ultimately order the dismissal of Defense Distributed’s case in Texas for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Joining Attorney General Nessel in filing this amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

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