UK Government Announces Raid on 3D-Printed Gun Factory, Uses Parts of the Printer as Evidence

The way the story of an illicit British 3D-printed gun factory played out, and fell apart, told well at the Giagaom site:

Police in the UK city of Manchester have seized a 3D printer and what they have alleged to be 3D-printed gun parts, during a raid on alleged criminal gangs. However, as an eagle-eyed reader has noted, the parts shown off by police are actually spare parts for a 3D printer....

gigaomgigaom

The UK has banned private handgun ownership since the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, so the approach there seems to be more crackdown than curiosity. Greater Manchester Police said on Friday that, the previous day, they had carried out a series of raids in the city. One of those operations turned up a 3D printer that they reckon cost around £1,200 ($1,950), together with what they said they suspected to be a “3D plastic magazine” and a “trigger.”

The magazine seems to be part of a filament spool holder and the trigger part of adrive block:

The police said they are now examining the components to see if they can really be put together to make a “genuine device”....In case you’re wondering, the street price of a real gun in Manchester is around £100.

According to a statement by Detective Inspector Chris Mossop:

“If what we have seized is proven to be viable components capable of constructing a genuine firearm, then it demonstrates that organised crime groups are acquiring technology that can be bought on the high street to produce the next generation of weapons.

“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 the criminal gangs who are causing such misery in our communities. Because they are also plastic and can avoid X-ray detection, it makes them easy to conceal and smuggle....

second statement, released after it became clear the parts weren’t for guns, took the affair firmly into the realm of farce. After initially stressing that the Greater Manchester Police could not categorically say these were gun parts (the first statement was entitled “Component parts for UK’s first 3D gun seized”), Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood continued:

“Clearly the fact we have seized a 3D printer and have intelligence about the possible production of a weapon using this technology is of concern. It prudent we establish exactly what these parts can be used for and whether they pose any threat.

“What this has also done is open up a wider debate about the emerging threat these next generation of weapons might pose...

Some of the more hysterical initial reporting from Guardian and Sky News that took the initial police reports seriously, sent to me by my buddy and 3D printing-as-art-historical-preservation guru Cosmo Wenman, have already been taken down.

Cody Wilson, the apostle of 3D weapon printing and the subject of a profile feature by me in the December issue of Reason (subscribe now!) in an interview with Sky Net was quoted as saying:

I think countries like the UK...where your culture is schizophrenic, scared of itself, post-heroic and is unwilling to deal with the idea that people will have guns again - somehow like it's a feature of
Britishness.

I think that's absurd and I can show you that's disappearing.

I'm saying that your future will have these as a feature irrevocably from now to eternity and this is something that's bleeding into the present.

Wilson had a lot to say when I interviewed him for the Reason feature on the media and government's very real role as essentially the terrorists in this 3D-printed weapon debate.

Through events and reporting like this, and like breathlessly sending reporters on trains with plastic weapon parts, they are trying to create terror in the part of the citizens over a newly available technological opportunity. It's funny to watch, in its way.

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  • Raston Bot||

    “The worrying thing is for me is that these printers can be used to make certain components of guns, while others can be legitimately ordered over the Internet without arousing suspicion. When put together, this could allow a person to construct a firearm in their own home.”

    British pants-wetting makes me feel a little better about my own government.

  • WTF||

    It shouldn't. We seem to be headed in the same direction.

  • Boomer||

  • AlmightyJB||

    "schizophrenic,scared of itself, post-heroic and is unwilling to deal"

    Sounds familiar

  • GILMORE||

    ""It prudent we establish exactly what these parts can be used for and whether they pose any threat""

    ... said the stone masons to the blacksmith.

  • ||

    The limeys have taken animism and totemism to a whole new level. They are terrified--absolutely, pants-wettingly terrified--of a piece of metal (or plastic, I guess). How pathetic.

  • Paul.||

    Well, they are British.

  • tkdkerry||

    That was once a compliment, which makes it all the more sad.

  • Killazontherun||

    Those people would be better served by roaming chav gangs taking over than the decadent Oxford, Cambridge and Eton educated bunch that rules them now. May they all be victims of cannibalism and their toothy grins forever lost to history.

  • GILMORE||

    "We have here a load of plastic bits. It is possible they could be formed into something *very naughty*. It is prudent we lock ourselves in a room with them for a very long while. And don't knock because that interrupts us."

  • WTF||

    "The Naughty Bits" would have been good alt-text.

  • PD Scott||

    Next the Brits will insist paper edges be dulled so there can be no 2D weapons. Paper cuts are dangerous!

  • tarran||

    God, if they do that to people printing plastic parts, what are they going to do to people who own machine shops that can work with metal?

  • 0x90||

    I doubt that occurs to these types of people very often. They don't tend to perceive a "threat" until it's suggested to them, and then, it helps a lot if it involves poorly-understood factors, thereby lending itself to their characteristic magical thinking.

    Machining, though in fact about as sci-fi as you get, tech-wise, is still something you can perceive, if you don't know better, as being downright stone-age: taking a whack out of one piece of metal, with another.

  • Paul.||

    Machining, having been around for years, is established technology (and relatively still expensive).

    3D printing is new, scary and cheap.

  • Sigivald||

    True - but the cost of a cheap CNC mill that's more than good enough to whip out submachinegun parts* isn't a big problem for "organized crime".

    Not that I expect that mere fact to trouble politicians, of course - but it remains true.

    (* Plenty of designs exist where the receiver is simply some common steel pipe; none of the other parts are difficult to make except for a decent barrel - and you don't need one of those to commit robberies and murders.)

  • Paul.||

    I think the UK is playing fast and loose with the term "organized crime".

    My friends and I order a 3d printer and start to make guns. We're a an "organized gang".

  • Paul.||

    And uhh, yeah, real organized crime uses real guns anyway.

    I don't imagine anyone in a pin striped suit, riding the sideboards of a Plymouth shooting up a speakeasy with a 3d printed Tommy gun.

  • Spoonman.||

    Did somebody put the Tom Friedman filter on Cody Wilson?

  • Paul.||

    Here we go.

    From the meta-libertarian perspective, no, this can't be stopped, the cat's out of the bag. Hooray for libertopia!

    However, that won't stop the government from ruining countless lives trying to stop it.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Did the UK government seize the alt-text as evidence too?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Doherty is allergic to alt-text, even purely descriptive alt-text.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    It's like slow motion cultural suicide.

    "We renounce for all eternity those things which made us great."

    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

  • Sigivald||

    “If what we have seized is proven to be viable components capable of constructing a genuine firearm, then it demonstrates that organised crime groups are acquiring technology that can be bought on the high street to produce the next generation of weapons.

    Wait until the British police discover CNC mills!

    Those things can be used to make durable firearms, unlike current plastic printers...

  • Redmanfms||

    Wait until the British police discover CNC mills!

    I have a home shop with a couple manual machines (lathe and vertical mill) and two older CNCs (lathe and vertical mill). The footprint for any CNC machine (or manual for that matter) is substantial. The machines require precision-laid concrete plinths and balancing by somebody who knows what they are doing. They have massive power draw and use non-standard voltages (for homes anyway) This isn't something the average Joe can really have in his home.

    Programming and, more importantly, set-up of machines is skilled labor. Being a machinist isn't something some computer nerd is going to pick up in a weekend. Sure, you can download a program to machine a certain part off the internet, but it may not work with your controller. Then you are left trouble-shooting, which is where the whole skill thing comes in. It's a whole lot easier to know your machine and write your own programs than it is to troubleshoot a code you didn't write.

    Set-up, set-up, set-up!!!!

    And the machines, if they aren't completely used up, are fucking expensive.

    3D printing circumvents a lot of these hurdles and the machines are vastly cheaper.

  • Bo Assplug S||

    using 3D printers to make 3D printers. it's 3D all the way down.

  • plusafdotcom||

    And all that should scare the knickers off British wood-turners, because a few hundred pounds of lathe and a bit of wood can get together to make sharp, pointy and dangerous WEAPONS.

    The end is near... interesting to see that Britain is, once again, leading the way.

  • Will Nonya||

    If they're able to use a 3D printer to create a gun factory that is impressive.

  • Will Nonya||

    Anyone know how those 3D printed bullets are working out?

    Obviously they've mastered that in order to get a viable weapon past the xray machines, right? If not its just a small plastic club. Oh the horror of it all.

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