Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sen. Lee Thwarts Legislation To Ban 3D-Gun Blueprints, Utah Attorney General Watches From Sidelines

man holds a model of a black rifle made on a 3-D printer.
Whittney Evans / KUER
Chris Lane works at Imagine That, 3D, a 3D printing retail store in Murray, Utah. Lane said he's only been asked to print toy guns like this one.

Utah has not stood in the way of a Texas company's effort to release blueprints for a 3D printed gun that a federal judge in Washington state has blocked.

That company, Austin-based Defense Distributed, is at the center of a national debate in Congress and courtrooms focusing on whether Americans should be allowed to print untraceable and undetectable plastic firearms from their home.

Utah Senator Mike Lee this week single-handedly stopped legislation pushed by Democrats to ban the publication of designs for a single-shot, printable firearm when he voted against bringing the legislation to the Senate floor.

In Salt Lake City, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has stayed out of a legal challenge brought by eight states and the District of Columbia to prevent the blueprints' release.

The issue at hand stems from a June court settlement between Defense Distributed and the State Department to allow the company to post its design manual online starting Wednesday. That plan was put on hold this week when U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Washington state issued a temporary restraining order in a new federal lawsuit filed Monday.

The June court ruling was met with pushback. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) asked for unanimous consent on the Senate floor this week to take up his bill to ban the blueprints. That decision was blocked by a single "no" vote from Lee, who said the ban violated the company's First Amendment right to free speech.

"It begins with the words, 'It shall be unlawful for any person to intentionally publish …' That ought to be concerning to us," Lee said on the Senate Floor. "To each and every one of us."

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes was asked to join the lawsuit filed by eight state attorneys general and the District of Columbia against the State Department, but he declined. Ric Cantrell, Reyes' chief of staff, said the attorney general wants to study the issue further.


Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.