The potential for mass production of firearms by criminals using hi-tech 3D printers is being monitored by police.
Senior officers have identified the new technology – which creates objects through successive layering of material – as a future opportunity for gangsters to obtain weapons following police successes in limiting the supply of weapons to the streets.
The use of 3D print technology to create arms has been championed in the US by libertarian groups as President Obama pushes for gun control legislation following the Sandy Hook school massacre. One group, Defense Distributed, has built gun components including a 30-round plastic magazine which would be banned under the Obama proposals. The technology has been used to download designs from the internet and turn them into plastic gun components using specialist printers building them up layer by layer.
“Some of the debate we have got to is over new threats such as 3-D printing,” said Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson, the lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers on gangs and gun crime. “We’re trying to see if that is an emerging threat and if that is something we are going to have to encounter in the future.”
Cody Williams, the founder of US-based Defense Distributed, said the technology was still being developed but within a decade “you will simply go to the web, download a file and click print”.
He added: “The era has now opened. We can develop over 30 different gun components. The police have a concern – so do innocent, interested sovereign people.”
He cited the “rights of man” for the ability to print a gun.
“You can have the things you want in this life. You have the right to defend yourself, you have the right not to be observed, you have the right to a military patent rifle.”