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The task force executing warrants in Melbourne.

Australia definitely has a love/hate relationship with 3D printing. There are numerous research programs and innovative ideas coming to us from Down Under, from a periodontist bioprinting jaw and gum cells for future dental surgeries to a group of entrepreneurs using the technology to benefit a charity for children at risk. New partnerships and distribution agreements abound.

3D printing is undoubtedly responsible for an inordinate amount of good happening—with much more to come—on the Australian continent. But the subject of fabricated weaponry has led the government to explore the dark side of this technology, with some police even admitting that they are terrified of 3D printed guns. Whether law enforcement approves or not, the flow of hardware is certainly on the rise for offering the tools of the trade to designers on nearly every level, legal or otherwise.

Guns? Terror or not, that’s up to the police to deal with in Australia. And one errant 3D printer is now paying for its crimes, recently confiscated by The Echo Taskforce of Melbourne. Apparently, this may indeed be the machinery responsible for producing that now famous 3D printed handgun that was discovered during a drug raid that also yielded an entire meth operation, as well as other contraband.

Fully loaded and expected to be fully functional, this small 3D printed object kicked off quite a frenzy last year regarding the threat of tech-savvy criminals—fueling the fire on the subject as the bust happened just on the heels of legislation in New South Wales banning the mere possession of 3D files for guns. This came just after aggressive legislation regarding 3D printed guns and the approval of the Firearms and Weapons Prohibition Legislation Amendment Bill 2015.

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A bikie suspect is led away in cuffs.

Now, the task force has retrieved the guilty hardware, as well as hauling in three more ‘bikies,’ as members of biker gangs are referred to in Australia. These individuals are thought to be part of the Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang. While most of us certainly don’t connect the dots when it comes to bikers and high-tech innovation, as the three were arrested, law enforcement also brought in the printer, some ammunition, other equipment for making guns, and of course, the prerequisite narcotics.

“The warrant is part of an ongoing Echo Taskforce investigation in relation to perverting the course of justice,” said a Victorian Police spokeswoman.

This bust, related to the meth lab discovery just near the famed Gold Coast at a building in Mudgeeraba, has not been the only one. In February of 2015, 3D printed gun parts were discovered—marking the first time police encountered something of this nature—along with the more traditional find also of a sawed-off shotgun, accompanying ammunition, and weed. Since then, they have discovered a gun, and now the 3D printer—with all of these searches and arrests also conveniently helping police to rustle up bikies from gangs they have been working diligently to dismantle, to include those affiliated with the Lone Wolf club.

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Task force officials exit with evidence, including the 3D printer.

Australia is of course not alone in their struggles to handle the controversy over and creation of 3D printed guns. In the US, most are familiar with the outspoken Cody Wilson, who keeps the headlines rolling—all stemming from his role as the creator of the 3D printed single shot hand gun and his company, Defense Distributed, which is famously committed to releasing open source files of similar designs, despite the thin legal line which they tread upon.

Although stubborn and defiant in his mission and often not politically correct or concerned about what would happen if terrorists began to mass produce his designs, Wilson’s story is one to watch as we all wait to grow informed on the series of legal precedents that follow. He’s certainly gotten away with plenty already in his mission to see that fellow makers and gun-lovers are able to get the files they need to make guns from home so far.

There’s no denying that citizens of every country have a vested interest in their right to bear arms, and many hobbyists just have a passion for collecting guns as well, often unique models or antiques. Within the 3D printing industry, we cover many makers and designers who are busy having lighthearted fun with harmless ‘weaponry’ too, shooting everything from paper airplanes to rubber bands. Artists also use sometimes use the technology to make statements regarding their feelings on the subject with installations that open up the issue of weapons and violence for all to consider.

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Evidence packed up from the arrest and confiscation area.

As for Australia, it wouldn’t seem that they could glean much more from this case, which has resulted in a small avalanche of busts. Now, they have the gun, they have the printer, and plenty of people have been arrested in connection. Citizens have been made aware of the new laws as well as the dangers of making guns at home—and of course criminals too have been alerted to the presence of technology that can further their villainous plans around the world.

Whether the subject is 3D printed guns or those manufactured in the traditional manner, discussions, opinions, and future innovations are likely to remain controversial. And for anyone planning to 3D print a weapon, it’s certainly important to stay abreast of the laws, evolving as they may be. Stay out of trouble—and stay safe! What are your thoughts on this further developing case, as well as the laws regarding 3D weapons files in Australia? Let’s discuss it all further over in the 3D Printer from Australian Meth Lab Found forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Business Insider AustraliaHerald Sun Melbourne / Images: Nicole Garmston]
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