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A DHS Intelligence bulletin starkly warns it may not be possible to stop 3D-printed guns from being made – or from getting past security checkpoints undetected. DHS notes that 3D-printed firearms can be made without serial numbers or unique identifiers, making ballistics testing difficult, and that advancements in technology and decreasing 3D printer costs will mean even more sophisticated printed guns will become easier to acquire.
A 21 May DHS intelligence bulletin starkly warns it may not be possible to stop 3D-printed guns from being made – or from getting past security checkpoints undetected.
The department’s intelligence bulletins are circulated to state and federal law enforcement agencies. The 21 May bulletin, compiled by the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, was obtained by Fox News. The guns can be made (or “printed”) by downloading a file containing the blueprints, and then using the blueprints to guide a milling machine to create three-dimensional items from melted plastic.
Fox News quotes the intelligence bulletin to say that the guns “poses public safety risks,” and that currently these guns are beyond the reach of regulators. The guns may make 3D gun control efforts – for example, a bill sponsored by two New York lawmakers, Senator Charles Schumer (D) and Steve Israel (D) – irrelevant.
“Significant advances in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free digital 3D printer files for firearms components, and difficulty regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns,” the A
Fox news notes that the DHS bulletin refers specifically to Defense Distributed, a nonprofit company which has successfully demonstrated a 3D plastic gun called Liberator, whose only metal parts are the bullets and a firing pin.
The company made the blueprints file available on line, and about 100,000 people downloaded it before the U.S. State Department told the company to remove it so it would not be shared.
DHS admits it is a battle that cannot be won. “Limiting access [to the 3D gun blueprints] may be impossible,” the bulletin says.
Law enforcement sources told Fox News that the plastic gun will make it difficult to protect large public events or events attended by the President, because magnetometers aiming to prevent people from bringing a firearm to the event would not pick up a plastic gun.
“This is a serious threat,” the law enforcement source told Fox News. “These could defeat magnetometers. The only security procedure to catch [the 3D firearms] is a pat down. Is America ready for pat-downs at every event?”
One section of the 3-page bulletin is titled “Liberator design poses Public Safety Risks,” in which the bulletin says:
Magnetometers may fail to detect the Liberator, depending on device sensitivity. Though it is prohibited by federal law, manufacturers may deliberately omit the unnecessary metal insert, leaving only a small nail and ammunition as the sole metal component. Future designs could further reduce or eliminate metal entirely.
Unqualified gun seekers may be able to acquire or manufacture their own Liberators with no background checks.
The bulletin highlights other challenges3d plastic guns pose for law enforcement agencies:
3D-printed firearms can be made without serial numbers or unique identifiers, making ballistics testing difficult
Advancements in technology and decreasing 3D printer costs will likely mean even more sophisticated printed guns will become easier to acquire
The bulletin concluded:
Proposed legislation to ban 3D printing of weapons may deter, but cannot completely prevent their production. Even if the practice is prohibited by new legislation, online distribution of these digital files will be as difficult to control as any other illegally traded music, movie or software files.