Global Crackdown on 3D Printed Ghost Guns Escalates

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In just one week, law enforcement agencies in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Pennsylvania, and New York reported busts involving 3D printed guns. In Canada, a joint operation led by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) led to the confiscating of a 3D printer, firearms, and drugs. Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago police seized high-powered, 3D printed rifles during an early morning raid. In the United States, Montgomery County Police arrested three men for manufacturing and trafficking 3D printed guns and silencers. Lastly, in Port Jervis, New York, a 21-year-old man confessed to possessing a homemade handgun made using a 3D printer.

Canada’s joint operation

On August 25, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique reported an arrest carried out in collaboration with the North Bay Police Service. According to Carrique, law enforcement seized a Creality Ender 3D printer, loaded 3D printed firearms, ammunition, and suspected fentanyl. Two individuals were arrested and now face multiple firearm-related charges. Carrique announced the success of the operation on X (formerly known as Twitter):

Raid finds ghost guns

In Trinidad and Tobago, police carried out an early morning raid that led to the discovery of high-powered 3D printed rifles in the Caparo district. Based on a tip, officers of the Specialist Unit quickly verified that a man was suspected of “performing the duties of an armorer,” basically making weapons for criminal groups. They raided a house where they found evidence that the man was also making ghost guns with a 3D printer. Police seized firearms, ammunition, a 3D printer, and a computer from the house and arrested the “armorer” and a woman.

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher pointed out that “if such manufacturing operations become established in Trinidad and Tobago, it could lead to an increase in untraceable and illegal firearms circulating within the country. The proliferation of illegal firearms poses significant risks to public safety and law enforcement and the lack of control over the production and distribution of these weapons could result in an increase in violent crime and contribute to the empowerment of criminal organizations.”

Pennsylvania: Trio busted

In Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, law enforcement agencies arrested Tony Phan Ho, Rithga Ngoy, and Michael Phan Nguyen on charges related to the manufacturing and trafficking 3D printed guns and suppressors. The arrests followed an investigation that began in May 2023 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a shipment of firearm suppressor components from China.

Investigators discovered a collection of firearm-making equipment at Ho’s residence, including a 3D printer, AR-15 parts, specialized tools, and ammunition. Ho’s cellphone contained photos of completed and half-finished firearms, as well as videos of him firing a silenced AR-15 in his backyard. Messages on the phone also revealed a history of illegal gun sales involving Ho and his co-conspirators, dating back to March 2020.

Hatfield Township Police arrested Tony Phan Ho, Rithga Ngoy, and Michael Phan Nguyen for manufacturing and trafficking 3D printed guns. Image courtesy of Montgomery DA.

Prior to the search, Ho had handed off his weapons to co-conspirator Ngoy, who later turned in 15 functional firearms to Hatfield Police, 14 of which were untraceable ghost guns. District Attorney Steele stated: “The true extent of his firearms manufacturing business—as well as the extent of the criminal activities those firearms were then used in—may never be known, especially since privately made firearms have no serial numbers. These ghost guns are a great danger to the safety of our communities.”

The suspects were charged with a swarm of offenses, including the sale of illegal firearms, corrupt organization, and conspiracy, and were sent to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.

Guilty Plea in New York

In Port Jervis, New York, 21-year-old Noah James McCagg admitted to illegally owning a 3D printed handgun he made using a Creality Ender 3D printer that police later confiscated. His arrest on March 25, 2023, came after a joint narcotics investigation with the Orange County Drug Task Force. McCagg was apprehended with a loaded 9mm ghost gun. Then, a search of his home revealed the 3D printer used for making the weapons and various gun components. McCagg faces up to ten years in prison.

“Time and again, where we find the sale of narcotics, we find dangerous and illegally possessed guns,” said Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler. “Make no mistake about it: the untraceable guns recovered in this case are the tools of drug dealers and violent actors.”

A New York man was creating ghost guns with a 3D Printer. Image courtesy of Port Jervis Police Department via Facebook.

In New York, strict gun control laws were further tightened in 2019 when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation explicitly banning the manufacture, sale, transport, and possession of 3D printed firearms. These laws were enacted in addition to existing prohibitions against undetectable guns, aiming to address the growing issue of ghost guns that lack serial numbers.

Since the Manhattan district attorney’s office started counting in 2021, there have been 90 ghost gun prosecutions. While New York allows licensed gun owners to create firearms using a 3D printer, these must be immediately registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The growing number of prosecutions and the recent arrests show that despite existing laws, the manufacture and possession of ghost guns remain a significant problem in the state.

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