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Spanish Police Seize Covert 3D Printed Gun Workshop with Possible Nazi Leanings

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Spanish police officers revealed details of the country’s first bust on a workshop that used 3D printers to create gun receivers. Court documents released on April 18, 2021, describe details of the investigation that led to the arrest of a 55-year-old man using 3D printing to create homemade firearms. Officers dismantled the workshop on the island of Tenerife on September 14, 2020, and seized two 3D printers, filament, computers, 3D printed gun receivers, chemicals, over 30 terrorist guidebooks, as well as weapons like a katana sword and taser guns, and objects with Nazi symbols.

After investigators discovered that a man had purchased firearms and explosive substances online, they traced the IP to four properties in Tenerife. In the first operation of its kind, officers from the National Police teamed up with other Spanish agencies and local investigators to determine the exact location of what they suspected could be an illegal online firearm operation. During one of the raids, they uncovered a clandestine workshop and even found a fully operational Prusa 3D printer adding the final layers of a gun receiver.

Since the team also discovered different chemical substances that could have been used to elaborate explosives, they required the intervention of a specialized explosives unit that employs chemical and biological defense equipment. Known as TEDAX, short for Technician Specialist in Deactivation of Explosive Artifacts, the Spanish group of trained military and police personnel made sure there were no chemical risks at the property. Officers arrested the owner of the place, a Spanish man who worked at a nursery home in Tenerife at the time and has ties with the Venezuelan military. He is now being charged for allegedly participating in crimes related to the illegal possession of weapons and explosives.

A clandestine workshop in Spain used 3D printing to create firearm frames. Image courtesy of Spanish National Police.

According to the police report, the person taken into custody had an unusual array of machines, guns, gun parts, and weapons. Police found two 3D printers, 11 filament spools, several computer devices used for manufacturing gun parts, 19 3D printed handgun receivers, and several other gun parts like chargers, silencers, and handgun slides. The agents also located two taser pistols, five knives, a machete, and a katana, along with urban guerrilla and terrorist manuals to make explosives. Along with the arsenal, they found various objects with supremacist symbols, including a pistol holster with the emblem of the German National Socialist Army. Investigators determined that the detainee had many critical pieces that could be used to assemble 3D printed gun receivers for small firearms.

In a Twitter post, the National Police showed a video of the TEDAX team entering the clandestine workshop wearing protective equipment against chemical threats encountered on site. They also show a Prusa 3D printer churning out almost an entire firearm frame in real-time, as well as dozens of gun parts and weapons, fundamental pieces like an Airsoft AR-15 assault rifle replica, a long-barreled carbine rifle with scope, several metal tubes to make cannons, a holographic weapon sight, a plastic mold to make frames and various pieces from small weapons.

3D printed guns have gotten a lot of attention since American libertarian Cody Wilson printed the first single-shot handheld gun in 2013. Back then, the desktop 3D printers used for the job were not as sophisticated as they are today, and the plastic could barely withstand the pressure generated from one or two shots. As 3D printing technology matured, 3D guns did too. Moreover, blueprints for 3D printed firearms are widely available online. Widespread access to CAD files proves 3D-printed guns built at home worry authorities in many countries, especially when used to manufacture and sell these so-called “undetectable firearms.”

A clandestine workshop in Spain used 3D printing to create firearm frames dismantled. Image courtesy of Spanish National Police.

In the last few years, countries like the United Kingdom and Australia have banned the manufacturing of guns and gun parts without government approval, which includes 3D printed weapons too. In the United States, legislation surrounding 3D weapons is still ongoing. Both sides have put forth substantive arguments for and against allowing the manufacture of 3D guns at home for personal use.

In Spain, there is no particular legislation that deals with 3D-printed guns yet, but after this news, things might change. Especially since the National Police cited the 2019 German terrorist attack against a Jewish synagogue where an anti-Semitic individual used weapons, explosives and had 3D printed a rifle at home, as a warning against allowing 3D printed technology to aid in the proliferation of firearms that could end up in the hands of terrorists. Immediately after the attack, the German legislature passed stricter gun control regulations. Should we expect Spain to follow in the country’s footsteps in an attempt to curtail the illegal manufacture and sale of 3D weapons? Considering the news came out just a few days ago, and the alleged suspect has been detained, we will probably have to wait before learning about any or no potential changes in firearm legislation.

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