In an unprecedented multi-province operation codenamed Project Reproduction, Canadian law enforcement officials seized over 440 privately made firearms, including 3D printed handguns, long guns, silencers, ammunition, 3D printers, and drugs. As part of the coordinated approach, police arrested 45 people in raids across eight provinces, notably targeting individuals linked to the manufacturing and trafficking of 3D printed firearms across the country. Police say the investigation remains active and will supply more details later.
Curbing illegal firearms
Simultaneously on June 20, 2023, more than 20 police forces across the country, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), participated in Project Reproduction. Initiated by the Montreal Police’s quad tasked with investigating firearms trafficking, better known as Équipe Intégrée de Lutte au Trafic d’Armes (EILTA), the project aimed to curb the manufacturing and trafficking of privately made firearms or PMFs.
Project Reproduction marks a milestone in Canadian efforts to disrupt the flow of illegal firearms and fight gun violence. The RCMP says that privately made firearms, including those 3D printed, are illegal in Canada, untraceable, and pose risks to the general public. Alongside provincial and municipal police services, the federal agency is actively working to combat this emerging trend.
Chief Superintendent Mathieu Bertrand, in charge of Serious and Organized Crime and Border Integrity at RCMP Federal Policing, underscored that “technology continues to change the face of crime as we know it, presenting new tools for criminals to exploit. This nationwide operation demonstrates what law enforcement can achieve through collaboration, keeping pace with emerging criminal trends, and ensuring the safety of our citizens.”
Police partners across the country contributed to this landmark operation, conducting 64 searches in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Over 100 RCMP members participated in Project Reproduction, serving multiple search warrants in various provinces and ensuring guns stayed off the streets and out of criminal hands. The primary suspect, a resident of Quebec, was identified as the main distributor of illegal parts used in the assembly of PMFs, namely rails designed for 3D printed Glocks.
According to official reports, police seized 62 handguns, 71 3D printed handguns, two 3D printed long guns, one machine pistol, 52 3D printers (including a Flashforge Adventurer), 32 3D printed magazines, 87 silencers (63 of them were 3D printed), and 176 3D printed firearm bodies.
On June 20, 2023, as part of Project Reproduction, the RCMP section in Saskatchewan, in conjunction with the Regina Police Service, executed search warrants at a residence and a storage facility. A trove of weapons was found at the properties, including four fully completed and assembled 3D printed semi-automatic Glock-style handguns, various other firearms, approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and a printer.
On the same day, Nova Scotia’s Pictou County District RCMP and Victoria County District RCMP executed search warrants in Priestville and Middle River, respectively. These operations led to the seizure of several 3D printed firearms and related items, resulting in multiple arrests.
Likewise, a significant seizure occurred in New Brunswick, where a 25-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man from Geary were arrested following confiscating firearms, prohibited weapons, and devices. During the search, police seized restricted and prohibited firearms, eight 3D printed handgun frames, 3D printed firearm devices, several thousand rounds of ammunition, and other firearm manufacturing parts.
As part of the operation, the Pictou County District RCMP executed a significant search warrant in a school zone in Priestville. Police unearthed a concerning collection of weapons. Among the seized items were 23 firearms, an extendable baton, two suppressors, a pistol tactical long gun conversion kit, brass knuckles, and a 3D printed extended magazine. Incredibly, one of the discovered 3D printed handguns was actively being printed at the time of the raid.
Law enforcement agencies across Canada continue to urge the public to report any suspicious activities related to illegal firearms or other criminal activities. According to the agencies, these investigations highlight “what can be achieved when enforcement partners work together.”
In Canada, the production of firearms, including manufacturing a gun’s lower assembly or receiver blank, is regulated under the Firearms Act and Part III of the Criminal Code. Furthermore, it is illegal for unauthorized individuals to make guns without holding the appropriate firearms business license.
3DPrint.com usually follows many 3D printing gun cases in the United States, where the right to bear arms is protected under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. This has led to various debates and legal challenges around the issue of 3D printed guns, including some advocacy groups claiming that the ability to 3D print a firearm falls under these rights. In contrast, Canada has a much stricter gun control environment, and the right to own a firearm is not protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The discussion around 3D printed guns in Canada is often framed within the context of public safety, illegal weapons manufacture, and organized crime. Advocacy groups, similar to those in the US, exist but operate under a very different legal and cultural environment.
Although the ongoing debate between technological advancement and public safety will probably dominate most 3D printed gun news for the next few years, there is a clear emphasis on regulation and control, especially since more and more people are being charged with related offenses across the country. Experts say the issue will only grow; that is why federal gun control bill C-21 is in its second reading in the Senate. The bill would make possessing, distributing, or publishing blueprints for assault-style 3D weapons illegal.
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