3D printed weapons are no longer a matter of fiction

by Lorraine Williamson
3D printed weapons

THE HAGUE – Law enforcement professionals, ballistic experts, forensic scientists, policy makers and academia gathered last week in The Hague, (Netherlands). They came together for one of the world’s biggest platforms of information exchange regarding the threat of 3D printed weapons. 

The International Conference on 3D Printed Weapons, was organised by Europol and the Dutch National Police (Politie). Around 120 participants from 20 countries discussed the latest challenges facing law enforcement and their efforts to tackle this threat. 

Joint intervention strategies

Over the course of the two-day conference (24-25 May 2022), the participants explored the fundamental processes required for developing joint intervention strategies in this field, including tactical and forensic research, software, scientific developments, and legislation. 

International cooperation

Chief Constable Gerda van Leeuwen from the Dutch National Police (Politie) opened the conference. He said;

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The development of 3D printing of firearms is a current and future threat. International cooperation therefore is crucial to be able to counter. This conference will focus not only on current state of play. But also on building a strong network of specialists on this topic. Thus creating intervention techniques, and sharing best practices”.

Get these weapons off the streets

Furthermore, the team leader of Europol’s Analysis Project Weapons and Explosives, Martin van der Meij, added:

The threat posed by 3D printed weapons is very much on the radar of Europol, amid the growing number of such firearms being seized in investigations across Europe in recent years. Such a challenge can only be addressed by combining the expertise, resources and insights of law enforcement, the private sector and academia to get such guns off the streets”.

3D printed weapons no longer fiction

In 2019, two people were shot dead in Halle, Germany. The perpetrator used a homemade weapon. This was based on a blueprint downloaded from the internet to partly manufacture the weapon with a 3D printer.

Then, in April 2021, the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) raided and dismantled an illegal workshop in the Canary Islands which was producing 3D printed weapons. Two 3D printers were seized, alongside gun parts, a replica assault rifle and several manuals on urban guerrilla warfare and white supremacist literature. Consequently, the owner of the workshop was arrested and charged with illegal possession of weapons.

The following month, two men and one woman were arrested in the town of Keighley in the UK as part of an investigation into right-wing terrorism. Moreover, all three were charged with possessing components of 3D printed weapons. 

Conclusions from the conference 

  • Communication and cooperation between law enforcement and the industry/private sector is necessary to identify and monitor the developments around 3D printed firearms
  • An international network of experts on 3D printed firearms will be created. This will be tasked with keeping law enforcement agencies abreast of developments in 3D printed firearms
  • The main policy recommendations of participants and other developments around 3D printed firearms will be put into a factsheet, which will be distributed to partners and policymakers worldwide.

 

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