Printing 3D guns is ‘disturbingly easy’, the head of the National Crime Agency says as he calls for a change in the law to make possessing blueprints for the weapons a crime
- Head of the NCA revealed offenders are now able to make the guns out of metal
Printing 3D guns has become ‘disturbingly easy’, the head of the National Crime Agency said yesterday as he called for anyone downloading instructions to face jail.
Director General Graeme Biggar wants to change the law to make possessing 3D-printed gun blueprints a crime akin to having a terrorist manual, as he revealed that offenders are now able to produce homemade lethal weapons out of metal.
In the annual security lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, he warned criminals are increasingly downloading blueprints for 3D printed weapons due to the success of Britain’s FBI and police in suppressing the supply of traditional illegal firearms.
Previously the weapons were only 3D-printed in plastic, with separate metal components required.
The flimsy guns were not very accurate and were often considered just as dangerous to the users themselves due to risk of misfire.
The flimsy guns were not very accurate and were often considered just as dangerous to the users themselves due to risk of misfire (Pictured: File photo of a 3D guns)
But Mr Biggar fears a new breed of lethal weapons could cross into Britain from America where people are now legally printing 3D guns in metal, as well as corresponding ammunition.
‘It is hard to get hold of a gun here. I mean, most obviously, criminals can do it if they really want to, but it is hard.
‘So that’s the context for why 3D printing matters. That’s then disturbingly easy,’ he said.
‘Previously, you would have to have a couple of metal components to make it work, which does not make it massively more complicated, but that was an extra thing and ammunition that you might have to get separately.
‘And now you can 3D print those.
‘I’m not sure we have seen it in the UK being used yet, but certainly in the US 3D printers can print metal.’ He said the weapons had become cheaper to produce and more effective.
‘You can buy a 3D printer on Ebay you know relatively cheaply, hundreds and you can buy materials for tens, and you can download a blueprint and go for it.
He added: ‘We are determined to try and do everything we can to slow the growth of this…
Currently it is not an offence to have a partially build weapon, nor to download instructions (Pictured: File photo of 3D printed guns)
Mr Biggar fears a new breed of lethal weapons could cross into Britain from America where people are now legally printing 3D guns in metal (Pictured: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meeting NCA officers, accompanied by NCA Director General Graeme Biggar)
Director General Graeme Biggar (pictured) wants to change the law to make possessing 3D-printed gun blueprints a crime akin to having a terrorist manual
‘You can kill with these things. In the early stages of 3D printed firearm they were kind of as likely to hurt the person behind them as they were the person being aimed at, and that is no longer the case.
‘These are more reliable and more lethal.’
The Government is considering legislation to outlaw the ownership of 3D-printed firearm blueprints and change the definition of what a gun is, so that people halfway through printing a weapon could be prosecuted.
Currently it is not an offence to have a partially build weapon, nor to download instructions.
3D-printed gun technology has rapidly advanced in recent years, with a range of printable semi-automatic rifles, carbines and pistols available.
Those who create and share designs for the firearms have thousands of followers on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
3D-printed gun technology has rapidly advanced in recent years, with a range of printable semi-automatic rifles, carbines and pistols available (Pictured: Stock photo of 3D printed fictional shotgun)
Although popular in the US, where they are legal, 3D-printed guns are now beginning to appear more frequently in the UK.
So far in the UK there has been only one conviction for the supply of a 3D-printed firearm to a crime gang.
But Mr Biggar said the number of NCA seizures had increased from around three in 2021 to 17 last year.
The NCA is now training police to recognise the weapons.
‘We’ve got a project called Interknow which is pulling together everyone who is relevant in the UK to 3D-printed firearms to try and share knowledge, not least so that when your average police officer goes into a house to do a search, and they find something, they actually recognise it’s a 3D-printed firearm and not a Nerf gun,’ Mr Biggar said.
In Ukraine, soldiers are also using 3D printer labs to make bombs and drone weapons.
Mr Biggar said the National Crime Agency were concerned about the risk of weaponry from the warzone being smuggled into Britain.
But he said investigators had not seen any evidence of this happening yet.
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