In what is considered to be the first action of its kind, police in Wythenshawe, Manchester have seized a 3D printer and what they believe to be 3D printed gun components. This operation, as reported in PrintWeek, “were carried out as part of Operation Challenger, the largest ever multi-agency attempt to target organized crime in the history of [the Greater Manchester City Police].” During this particular raid, “officers found a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer and two 3D printed component parts thought to be a magazine clip and a trigger. In addition, a man was arrested on suspicion of making gunpowder and remains in custody for questioning.” Firearms specialists are currently determining if these components could, viably, be used in the construction of a 3D printed gun. As Detective Inspector Chris Mossop of Challenger’s Organized Crime Coordination Unit explains, “in theory, the technology essentially allows offenders to produce their own guns in the privacy of their own home, which they can then supply to criminal gangs who are causing such misery in our communities. Because [these 3D printed guns] are also plastic and can avoid X-ray detection, it makes them easy to conceal and smuggle.” If the 3D printed components do turn out to have viable uses in potential firearms, this seizure would mark a historic moment in the regulation of the growing 3D printing industry.
Update: Monday, November 4th, 2013:
According to several sources, including CNN, “it now appears the parts are likey just replacement component parts for the 3D printer itself. This scintillating turn of events began when “photos of the parts were quickly picked apart online by the 3D printing community…and identified as pieces for a 3D printer. The store owner [said] the ‘magazine’ part was actually a ‘spool holder’ for the printer, and the parts were designed by the printer manufacturer.” The Greater Manchester Police have subsequently released a follow-up statement: “acknowledg[ing] that they could not confirm the parts were from a 3D printed gun, saying they needed further forensic testing by ballistics experts.”
From where we sit, though, this raid is looking more and more like an aggrievious police blunder.
Photo and Quotes Courtesy of PrintWeek
Update Quotes Courtesy of CNN