Following an investigative story published by 3DPrint.com this June about 3D printed gun-related arrests and confirmation by the Dutch police of an increase in this type of ghost weapons (unserialized, privately-made firearms), news of security forces encountering more homemade printed guns is becoming much more commonplace than it was a few years ago. In the last few weeks alone, there were several arrests and raids involving 3D printed firearms, plus a man in Houston who sold dozens of homemade 3D printed guns to the city at its first-ever gun buyback event.
A Recent Spat of 3D Printed Gun Offenses
Both U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies are trying to tackle 3D printed guns related to violent crimes. In Syracuse, New York, Onondaga County deputies put a man behind bars after being accused of making his untraceable handguns using a 3D printer. The Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to an apartment complex for a reported verbal domestic incident on July 16 and discovered 37-year-old Daniel Seils – a two-time convicted felon – verbally threatening a woman. The man had several guns, including three unserialized 3D printed weapons.
Around the same time, Winnipeg police charged a 24-year-old man with several offenses related to manufacturing and trafficking 3D printed guns and gun parts. Local police said its Firearms Investigation and Enforcement Unit was notified by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) that it had intercepted parts to assemble 3D printed guns in the mail. As a result, the agencies began a firearm trafficking investigation that led to the arrest of the man, who used the mailed parts between April and May 2022 to assemble a 3D printed firearm for trafficking.
Then in August, the CBSA again announced that it had intercepted more gun parts sent into the country via international mail, leading authorities to seize ghost guns and related 3D printing equipment in Vancouver and Toronto.
Leading the operation, the director of the CBSA’s Intelligence and Enforcement Operations Division, John Linde, said agency officers remain on alert to seize smuggled firearms and firearm parts as a top priority and a way to contribute to Canada’s public safety.
Also concerned about the surge in gun violence, the Canadian Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino, said “We’re taking action to keep Canadians safe from gun violence. ‘Ghost guns’ pose a serious risk to our communities for many reasons including they are becoming easier to manufacture and difficult to trace when used by criminals. That’s why we are continuing to invest in new x-ray technology and K-9 units to protect our borders.”
Intercepting 3D Printed Guns
Law enforcement agencies are attempting to halt any potential threat of 3D printed guns, and as Mendicino said, that involves reinforcing security checkpoints, among other actions. In that regard, 3DPrint.com reported on recent advances made by Liberty Defense, a security technology newcomer ready to beta test a new non-metal weapons detection system in airports and other commercial checkpoint applications. This type of AI-based technology could help anticipate the potential future dangers where untraceable and even non-metal weapons exist.
“Our goal at Liberty Defense is to prevent somebody from getting into an event, a place of worship, stadium, school, or shopping, where someone might have a printed, plastic gun or other types of threats,” explained Liberty Defense CEO Bill Frain during an interview.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, gun violence spiked, with shootings reported in nearly every U.S. state that killed at least 220 people and wounded close to 570 others, according to Gun Violence Archive. Unfortunately, other fatal shootings followed, the most recent being inside a downtown Minneapolis apartment Sunday night. In many of these cases, untraceable DIY ghost guns have been used. The most high-profile instance of a homemade firearm involved in crime was the assassination of Shinzo Abe.
In fact, last April, the Biden administration revealed that in 2021, law enforcement recovered roughly 20,000 suspected ghost guns in criminal investigations, a ten-fold increase from 2016. Although most of those guns are not 3D printed, police agencies consider the rising threat of these easy-to-build weapons escalating. Moreover, since ghost guns lack the serial numbers marked on other firearms, law enforcement has difficulty tracing them to individual buyers.
A 3D Printed Gun Buyback
Entirely 3D printed guns without metal fall under the ghost gun category. However, a Houston man who wished to remain anonymous sold dozens of 3D printed guns at the city’s first gun buyback on July 30. Fox 26 News interviewed the man who indicated that he traded 62 3D printed guns and received more than $3,000 or $50 per gun. He claimed to make the weapons only cost $3 each and that his goal was not for personal profit but to send a message to Houston leaders about spending $1 million tax dollars on “something that has no evidence of any effect on crime.”
Depending on the type of weapon, citizens turning in firearms were rewarded with gift cards from $50 (for a non-functioning gun) to $200 (for a fully automatic rifle). Additionally, all handguns were retrieved with a no-question-asked policy by law enforcement. However, Mayor Sylvester Turner told the media that next time they would exclude 3D printed guns from the buyback.
“We’re going to exclude those next time around,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said to Fox 26. “This is a program designed for people who want to voluntarily relinquish their guns.”
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