Daring AM: Canada Tackles Increase of 3D Printed Gun Arrests and Sentences

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Recent incidents in Canada have brought to light the arrest of individuals for possessing illegal 3D printed firearms, among other charges. These incidents, which resulted in multiple arrests, serve as a reminder of the innovative methods that criminals are employing to circumvent traditional firearm acquisition and tracking methods. Under Canadian law, these actions represent a clear violation, as the production and possession of unregistered and unauthorized firearms, particularly those created using 3D printing technology, are strictly prohibited. This reflects the country’s firm stance on regulating firearm ownership and ensuring public safety.

Winnipeg Crackdown

Jackson Prince, a 19-year-old from Winnipeg, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in manufacturing and trafficking 3D printed firearms. This case has drawn significant attention due to the involvement of 3D printing technology in the creation of illegal guns. Prince, who had no previous encounters with the law, admitted guilt to several serious charges, including manufacturing and trafficking firearms and importing prohibited firearm parts. His sentencing is similar to a case involving another 3D gun trafficker, Blake Ellison-Crate, in April 2022. Also from Winnipeg, Ellison-Crate was sentenced to 12 years in prison for multiple gun trafficking crimes, including manufacturing and selling 3D printed guns. In fact, Prince originally came to police attention during the same investigation that landed Ellison-Crate in custody.

Presiding Judge Don Slough pointed out that greed was the primary motivator behind Prince’s criminal activities. He emphasized the need for a strong judicial sentence to deter others who might be tempted by the lucrative nature of illegal gun manufacturing and trafficking. This sets a precedent in Canadian judicial proceedings against such crimes. After all, the seriousness of Prince’s actions was underscored by the connection of one of his firearms to a homicide and another to a shooting incident. A police raid on Prince’s residence resulted in the seizure of numerous 3D printed firearms and parts, highlighting the scale of his operations.

In early 2023, Winnipeg Police conducted searches at Prince’s residence led to the seizure of multiple 3D printed gun parts, further solidifying the case against him. This included Glock-style receivers and an AR-15-style firearm disguised as a child’s toy. These events have brought to light the emerging threat of 3D printed firearms in criminal activities and the challenges they pose to law enforcement.

Alberta Seizures

ALERT’s Medicine Hat seized two 3D printed handguns. Image courtesy of ALERT.

On December 12, 2023, a major operation by the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) in southeast Alberta led to a significant seizure of drugs and firearms. In a coordinated effort involving multiple agencies, ALERT’s Medicine Hat organized crime team, alongside Brooks Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Medicine Hat Police, executed search warrants at six homes in Brooks. This operation was part of a broader investigation into drug trafficking and firearms that began earlier in the year.

The searches led to nearly $65,000 worth of illegal drugs and two 3D printed handguns. The two handguns seized were equipped with 3D printed receivers, which are illegal in Canada. Further analysis of these firearms is underway at the Provincial Firearms Solutions Lab, a facility specializing in firearms examinations. The Lab handles the majority of firearms examinations in the province and says it has received and examined 52 3D printed firearms in 2023.

This seizure is not an isolated incident. In July 2023, ALERT conducted similar operations across Alberta, seizing more 3D printed firearms and related equipment. The growing number of 3D printed guns, also known as privately made firearms (PMFs) or ghost guns, is a rising concern. Organized crime groups particularly value these weapons due to their untraceability and the ease with which they can be acquired without a firearms license.

One of the two 3D printed handguns seized by ALERT’s Medicine Hat in Canada. Image courtesy of ALERT.

British Columbia Arrests

Recent incidents in British Columbia highlight the ongoing challenges faced by the RCMP in combating firearms offenses, particularly those involving 3D printed guns.

In the first case, dating back to November 2023, the West Shore RCMP achieved a significant breakthrough in a firearms offense case in Langford. The case began earlier in the year, on February 20, when a man discharged a firearm near the Jordie Lunn Bike Park. After releasing video footage and photographs to the public, the RCMP successfully identified the suspect, a 41-year-old man from Langford. On November 7, the West Shore RCMP Serious Crime Unit arrested him and executed search warrants on his property. The search revealed several restricted and prohibited firearms, including three fully loaded homemade 3D printed guns, body armor, ammunition, and evidence of the suspect’s involvement in manufacturing unregistered guns. The man now faces multiple charges, including reckless discharge and weapons manufacturing, and is set to appear in court in February 2024.

A second incident occurred on December 22, 2023, when RCMP officers in Keremeos pulled over a suspicious vehicle allegedly speeding on Highway 3A. The vehicle’s passenger, a 35-year-old from Penticton with outstanding warrants, and the 33-year-old driver, who also had warrants from Kelowna, were arrested. The driver showed signs of drug impairment, and a subsequent search revealed illegal drugs, a 3D printed 22 caliber firearm, break-in tools, and weapons. Both individuals now face multiple charges, including possession of break-and-enter instruments and controlled substances, as well as possession of a prohibited weapon.

West Shore RCMP in Canada seized a 3D printed firearm. Image courtesy of RCMP.

Arrest Trends in Focus’s findings on this subject show that in 2022, Canada was identified as one of the leading countries in terms of 3D printed gun-related arrests, accounting for 18% of our total count. This trend, predominantly affecting North America and Oceania, with Europe trailing, showed a worrying increase in these activities. Fast-forward to 2023, the problem seems to be escalating, with a significant jump in arrests. After two arrests were recorded in 2020, the numbers surged dramatically, reaching 56 arrests by the first half of 2023, mainly due to a nationwide raid targeting the manufacturing and trafficking of 3D printed firearms. This indicates a more than twofold increase compared to the previous year. These recent cases have highlighted the challenges and complexities involved in enforcing these laws in the face of advancing technology.

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