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More U.S. states join lawsuit over online 3-D gun blueprints

(Reuters) - Eleven more U.S. states have joined a lawsuit against the Trump administration over the online distribution of blueprints for 3-D printed guns, after several states on Tuesday convinced a federal judge to block the planned publication of the designs.

Seized plastic handguns which were created using 3D printing technology are displayed at Kanagawa police station in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, in this photo taken by Kyodo May 8, 2014. REUTERS/Kyodo

California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia were added in a Thursday court filing to the list of eight mainly Democratic-controlled states and the District of Columbia who sued the U.S. government in federal court.

The states behind the lawsuit argue that publishing blueprints would allow criminals easy access to weapons. Gun rights advocates say fears about 3-D printed guns are largely overblown, based on current technology.

The blueprints were originally set to go online on Wednesday, following a June settlement between the U.S. government and Texas-based Defense Distributed allowing the group to legally publish the designs.

Defense Distributed, founded by self-declared anarchist and gun rights advocate Cody Wilson in 2012, has argued the publication is protected by his First and Second Amendment rights, respectively to free speech and to bear arms.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order that blocked the website from uploading the blueprints, saying they could likely cause “potential irreparable harm.”

Defense Distributed, which uploaded the blueprints just before the judge’s ruling, took them down again, but other online sites have since made them available on the internet.

The states in their amended lawsuit on Thursday asked Lasnik to permanently block the government from allowing the publication of the files.

The U.S. State Department had previously banned the blueprints as a national security risk and a violation of arms trafficking regulations. As recently as April, the government in court filings argued downloadable guns would allow extremist groups and criminals abroad unfettered access to arms.

But a lawyer for the State Department during a Tuesday court hearing told Lasnik that the government had determined in May that the types of guns featured in Defense Distributed’s blueprints do not pose a national security risk as they can be bought “in any store.”

Another hearing in the case is set to take place later this month.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O’Brien