By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday rejected a last-ditch effort by gun control groups to block the Trump administration from allowing the public to download blueprints for 3-D printable guns, declining to intervene just days before the designs are expected to go online.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, Texas, denied the request for an order by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence at a hearing, saying he would state the reasons for his decision in a written order to follow.
At the hearing, the judge said he was sympathetic to the gun control groups' concerns but questioned their legal standing to intervene in the case.
The groups sought to intervene following a June settlement between Defense Distributed and the U.S. government allowing the company to legally publish gun blueprints online, something its website says it plans to do by Aug. 1.
The government ordered the blueprints taken down in 2013 and Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson sued in 2015, claiming his First Amendment and Second Amendment rights had been violated.
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The government had until recently argued the blueprints posed a national security risk. Gun control groups said there had been no explanation for the June settlement and the administration's abrupt reversal on the issue.
Lawyers for the Brady Center declined to comment on Pitman's ruling after the hearing.
The groups in court filings said not halting the blueprint distribution by a Texas-based company called Defense Distributed would "cause immediate and irreparable harm to the United States national security" and that of individual U.S. citizens.
"The stated goal of Defense Distributed is to sound the death knell for gun control," David Cabello, a lawyer for the Brady Center, told Pitman during the hearing.
The 3-D files include blueprints for a plastic AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, a weapon that has been used in many U.S. mass shootings, as well as other firearms.
Joshua Blackman, a lawyer for Defense Distributed, said he was grateful for the judge's ruling. During the hearing Blackman said the gun control groups were trying to litigate a political dispute in court.
Wilson, a self-declared Texas anarchist, said in an online video that the blueprints were downloaded more than 400,000 times before they were taken down in 2013.
Lawrence Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for gun manufacturers, told Reuters concerns over 3-D printable guns were overblown.
"I don't see it likely at all that criminals will use this clunky and expensive technology," Keane said. The NSSF is not involved in the case.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin; Writing and additional reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas and Dan Grebler)