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Crime United Kingdom Technology

UK Police Seize 3D-Printed 'Gun Parts,' Which Are Actually Spare Printer Parts 279

nk497 writes "Police in Manchester have arrested a man and seized what they claim are 3D printed components to a gun. They made the arrest after a 'significant' discovery of a 3D printed 'trigger' and 'magazine,' saying they were now testing the parts to see if they were viable. 3D printing experts, however, said the objects were actually spare parts for the printer. 'As soon as I saw the picture... I instantly thought, "I know that part,"' said Scott Crawford, head of 3D printing firm Revolv3D. 'They designed an upgrade for the printer soon after it was launched, and most people will have downloaded and upgraded this part within their printer. It basically pulls the plastic filament, and it used to jam an awful lot. The new system that they've put out, which includes that little lever that they're claiming is the trigger, is most definitely the same part.'"
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UK Police Seize 3D-Printed 'Gun Parts,' Which Are Actually Spare Printer Parts

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  • by Custard Horse ( 1527495 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @08:50AM (#45232887)

    FTFA: "The man was also arrested on suspicion of making gunpowder"

    He was probably making coffee...

    • That actually wasn't a 3D printer it was a pillow.
    • by RDW ( 41497 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @08:54AM (#45232917)

      This is England, so it was probably tea. It's an easy mistake to make: []

    • seing as a trigger is nothing but a lever in most cases, and a detent with a nice finger surface in really fancy cases, i'd say that declaring that someone who has made a trigger can easily fashion it into a firearm is something of an exageration.

      the magazine on the otherhand... a box, a spring, and a plate... now THAT is truly terrifying!

      • Re:over-reaction? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:40AM (#45233323)

        It's also worth pointing out that there is absolutely nothing illegal about triggers or magazines in the UK. My father owns several deactivated guns, all of which have real metal gun triggers (not simply trigger shaped bits of plastic) and at least one has a magazine. These are legal and have been certified as properly deactivated yet that process does not involve doing anything to damage/limit those components. (Chambers on a revolver are blocked as part of the process however.)

        So if it's not illegal to own real triggers and magazines, why is it illegal to make plastic things that look like them? Actual construction of a firearm out of plastic gun shaped bits should be illegal in a country where firearms are illegal of course. This is similar to black powder guns, or guns of obsolete calibre (for which ammo is not readily available), these do not need to be deactivated however if you make or acquire ammo for them from somewhere then you're in trouble.

        • by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:00AM (#45233529)

          Also, if a plastic trigger is illegal, that would make every plastic toy gun, every water pistol, every cap gun, illegal. And every seller, maker, importer guilty of manufacturing/importing/distributing illegal firearm parts.

          Nearly every cleaner, weed-spray, bug-spray bottle in my laundry has a trigger on it. []

        • What happens when a person designs and builds a series of parts that are separately useful as something other than a "gun", but when combined in the right way does build a functioning "gun"? In other words, an disassembled gun is not a gun.

          Please describe how any law can prevent this? If you outlaw guns, fine, but they better be fully working versions, and not the disassembled blob of misc. parts.

          • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:40AM (#45235241)

            What happens when a person designs and builds a series of parts that are separately useful as something other than a "gun", but when combined in the right way does build a functioning "gun"?

            Is that you Francisco_Scaramanga []?

          • At the point where you have all the parts that are necessary to assemble a working gun, you are deemed to be in a constructive possession [] of one.

            Of course, such a law would be tricky to enforce in any meaningful cases, since buying parts separately is not illegal, and by the time someone actually assembles a gun and uses it, it's too late. So in practice it's mainly just an extra headache for legal gun owners - e.g. in US, you have to be careful to never be in a possession of an unmated short-barrel upper

      • So you typed this message on a keyboard? Oh my god, that means he has fingers... he could fire a gun! Police, arrest this man!

      • >the magazine on the otherhand... a box, a spring, and a plate... now THAT is truly terrifying!

        Putting a Miss Piggy head on top was a clever disguise, Mr. Terrorist, but we recognize a .22 short magazine when we see one. Come along quietly now before we get upset and have to beat you senseless.

    • In other news, a 80 year old grandmother has been released today when it was found that a supposed rocket launcher was just an umbrella stand.

      It is hardly a gun if all it consisted of was a trigger and magazine. A hammer and nail is much more dangerous (assuming you had ammunition).
      • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:13AM (#45233089)
        I'm hearing every comment in this thread in the officious voice of the late Graham Chapman.
      • A hammer can be fairly dangerous without ammo. Some might argue that if you are facing 2 men. One has a hammer and a nail and a .45 caliber bullet and is trying to shoot you with it, the other just has a hammer and is coming at you with it.

        I would put my focus on the guy without the nail and the bullet.

        • Re:over-reaction? (Score:4, Informative)

          by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:40PM (#45236187)

          indeed, when an unconfined handgun round goes off, the brass flies away from the bullet. at gun club I used to belong we'd sweep up powder residue and brass after matches and burn the pile since a portion of the powder is ejected from a gun unburned. every now and then a live round would pop and send the brass flying. but put that round in the shortest metal tube, maybe even inch beyond edge of brass (e.g. like a snub nosed revolver, which even has *air gap* before the short tube), and that's a whole different matter, that's a lethal weapon.

    • Article slashdotted - alternate story including updates below. Despite the obvious evidence, police continue to wave their arms wildly. []
    • by Jamu ( 852752 )
      Making gunpowder is a crime? I may or may not remember making gunpowder after school. Does this law date from 1605?
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      And rightfully so! Gunpowder is a monopoly of fireworks and ammunition makers. Making it yourself is a crass example of copyright terrorism! Had he bough a few large firecrackers and opened them, he would have been alright.

    • by durrr ( 1316311 )

      Gunpowder tea

    • Maybe he was playing with a toy gun [].
  • Oh god (Score:5, Insightful)

    by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @08:54AM (#45232923)
    ...the U.K. has found another moral panic. Everybody pop some popcorn, asinine laws are about to get passed and massive propaganda campaigns will be starting. Fun for the whole family, as long as you don't live there and as long as it doesn't spread here.

    Last time I remember one of these "weapons" related knives, it was during the post-handgun knifing sprees, and the gov't managed to spin up its citizens so much with their knife amnesty programs that people were turning in unsharpened movie prop fantasy knives, kitchen utensils, and yard tools afraid they were going to get prosecuted for owning lethal weaponry.

    We'll see what they come up with for 3D printers. Maybe plastic/printer amnesty days
    • "Weapons" related campaigns*, not knives
    • Re:Oh god (Score:4, Insightful)

      by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:13AM (#45233095) Homepage

      Lets not forget a major part of this panic is due to old manufacturing companies starting to realize that if we can print something for 5 cents, then why would we pay $5 for it?

      While we're not at that point yet, we certainly will be in 5 years. In 10-15 years, we'll be able to print iPods. Once that happens... why buy an iPod, when you can download a crowd-engineered alternative that's better and cheaper?

      I expect some form of faux outrage to ramp up and 3D printing to be banned or seriously restricted soon. It's too disruptive for us us mere plebeians to be allowed to have.

      • Re:Oh god (Score:4, Informative)

        by qbast ( 1265706 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:28AM (#45233221)
        Yeah, it's just like with movies and music - nobody wants content owned by big labels anymore because free stuff from garage bands is so much better. Oh wait, they don't and almost all downloaded music is actually pirated stuff.
        • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Funny)

          by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:37AM (#45234139)
          I was about to make a comment about how modern music is garbage, and that people only download the stuff made a long time ago and probably that they already owned at some point, but then I realized that there are a bunch of damn kids on my lawn again.
      • Re:Oh god (Score:5, Interesting)

        by harrkev ( 623093 ) <kfmsd AT harrelsonfamily DOT org> on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:35AM (#45233287) Homepage

        Printing an iPod??? Not a chance. Printing an iPod case? Sure.

        Sorry, you cannot print electronics. Well, you *CAN* (some have experimented with this), but your iPod would have the size and consistency of a phone book. Even a simple processor these days consists of tens of millions of transistors. Same for memory.

        I can envision two scenarios for printing electronics:

        1) Print just the board yourself. This is certainly feasible, eventually. However, assembly of something the level of a iPod requres soldering which simply cannot be done at home. Try soldering a BGA with 1,000 pins. This CAN be done is a toaster oven (but not by beginners), but requires a lot of knowledge to get it to work. Add in memory, caps, resistors, etc., and the odds of getting something out without any defects seems unlikely.

        2) Print the entire circuit yourself. It is possible to print transistors, but not to the scale needed. I would guestimate that thousands of transistors on a sheet of paper would be possible, but that is still a far way off from printing millions. Modern transistors can most closely be compared in size to a red blood cell. That sort of scale is difiicult to achieve with billions of dollars of equipment.

        Printing of electronics will be awesome when it comes, but it will have limits. Expect some fantastic hobbyist inventions, but it will not be able to even come close to commercial products.

        • by tmosley ( 996283 )
          In fifteen years, we may well have fully configurable computer components being mass produced on paper or some other disposable substrate. You also use commodity wire to connect to your scissor cuttable e-ink color screen which refreshes 128 times a second.

          Hell, in 25 years we might have full functioning robotic fabricators that can do everything from laser sintering to textile weaving to chemical vapor deposition on the desktop. A fully automated, fully configurable and reconfigurable factory in a box
          • Hell, in 25 years we might have full functioning robotic fabricators that can do everything from laser sintering to textile weaving to chemical vapor deposition on the desktop. A fully automated, fully configurable and reconfigurable factory in a box.

            I really, truly hope you're correct, but that seems a bit optimistic.

    • people were turning in unsharpened movie prop fantasy knives, kitchen utensils, and yard tools afraid they were going to get prosecuted for owning lethal weaponry

      Yeah, those, and also real Klingon Bat'leths [] (I mean, with actual sharpened edges that could take someones head off). Along with machetes and lots of other things that typically aren't needed in suburban Britain.

      I would expect panics about people 3D printing guns to be relatively commonplace in the UK and throughout Europe in future. Being an islan

      • Re:Oh god (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cyberchondriac ( 456626 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:16AM (#45233725) Journal
        There's no such thing as a "real" Klingon Bat'leth, for starters. Second, those kinds of weapons are props and do not hold an edge very well. Swords made for Renaissance faires are well known not be to be up to actual battle standards. But what's to stop someone from putting some nails in a cricket bat and going to town on someone with that? Going to ban cricket too? How about wood saws and hacksaws? Axes? Hatchets? Sledge hammers?
      • I'm not sure you can lump the entire US into a single cultural box. Although we may share federal laws and a single language, states that border each other will likely be very similar, but as you put more distance between the states you are comparing they become more dissimilar. The US is roughly 9 million km2 and Europe is roughly 10 million km2.

        When I hear people talk about US or American culture I often times find myself thinking maybe in some other state {over 1,000 miles away} but not here.

    • Our police (I'm British) do seem to be on a bit of a PR flurry at the moment, trying to get headlines by puffing up raids and arrests in response to whatever the moral panic of the day is.

      A cynic might suspect that it's related to a general crisis of confidence in them, relating to:

      - several years of stories about the doctoring of crime statistics
      - violent over-reactions in some public order situations
      - attempted cover-ups of said over-reactions
      - catastrophic under-reactions in other (genuinely dangerous) p

      • - violent over-reactions in some public order situations

        Also big over reactions to harmless demonstrators, i.e. kettling to strip them of their right to protest. The thing is kettling only works on peacful protestors. When the riots broke out there was no thought of doing that (how do you kettle people lobbing rocks and petrol bombs?)

        So it showed up the police's ability to crack down on peacful law abiding citizens and being near powerless in the face of actual criminals.

        Though I suspect you're refrring to

    • We need more Chris Morris on the telly. []

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      That board with a nail in it may have defeated us.

      But the humans won't stop there. They'll make bigger boards and bigger nails, and soon, they will make a board with a nail so big, it will destroy them all!

  • by Godwin O'Hitler ( 205945 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @08:54AM (#45232927) Journal

    ...a 3D gun is much more likely to be viable than a picture of a gun.

    "During the searches, officers found a 3D printer and what is suspected to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun.
    It they are found to be viable components for a 3D gun, it would be the first ever seizure of this kind in the UK."

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      I'm pretty sure you could design a gun that would use those parts somehow, so the police have lots of busy nights with cad to make them not seem stupid...

      • by Sun ( 104778 )

        Any chance they'll open source it? Might be better than the currently circulating CADs.


    • by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:00AM (#45233543) Homepage Journal

      You need special glasses to fire a 3D gun and only people wearing those glasses can get shot by one.

    • by Feyshtey ( 1523799 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:17AM (#45233755)
      Yes. And a 3D gun that's exponentially more viable is as easily created by a water jet cutter, or plasma cutter, or oxyfuel cutter, or a laser cutter. Any of which requires roughly the same level of training to utilize as a home 3D printer. Granted those technologies are much more expensive, but there are 1000's of them in use in machine shops in the US and Europe. All one needs is the file that defines the part, and the ability to access the machinery.

      Now you may be able to argue that the ease of access to home 3D printers makes it possible for more whacko's to get their hands on printed guns. But they will have shitty little pea shooters that might work once without blowing up in their faces. Whereas the 10s of 1000s of machine shop owners/employees out there are just as likely to be whacko's, and capable of producing things much more dangerous than some idiot in his basement. You're worried about a 15 round magazine being printed? How about a vulcan cannon?

      Hell, a marginally talented machinist with knowledge of firearms can make a damn effective weapon out of some pipe, using a lathe and a drill.

      So where's the moral outrage against the people with machine shops? Cutters? Drills? Maybe laws should be passed to regulate the purchase of pipes?

      The guy that fixes your uber eco bicycle as every tool he needs to kill you and everyone within 50 feet of you. But you are freaking out about a chunk of plastic.
  • Bigger authoritarians than the "gun nuts". Hopefully this shit stays on the other side of the pond.

  • So what they're saying is that we can use replacement printer parts to make guns?

  • by sa1lnr ( 669048 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:03AM (#45232987)

    I love that the Greater Manchester Police site has suffered the curse of slashdot. :)

  • Sounds like another case of the WMD aluminum tubes they found in Iraq, which were way too weak to be used for a centrifuge for enriching uranium. But it was a good enough excuse for the US to go to war.

    "But we have tubes!!!"

  • Except it's missing the hook that catches the trigger. I understand that UK cops don't really carry firearms, so they may not really be trained in the inner workings of different guns. I don't know much about what their training standards are, but I'd say it's an easy mistake to make for those who don't disassemble firearms very often. See below: []

    • I suspect that it's more about the fact that hysteria sells than genuine cluelessness.

      PCSOs and not-otherwise-alarmed officers don't routinely carry firearms; but 'Authorized Firearms Officers', potentially any officers with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and various other entities here and there, do, so it's not as though the necessary expertise isn't an internal phone call away, at most.

      (The, um, unimpressive... build quality and design standards of 3d printed weapons may also be a factor:
      • (The, um, unimpressive... build quality and design standards of 3d printed weapons may also be a factor: if you are hunting parts for firearms that are made out of shitty plastic, to a level of quality that would shame your average zipgun and make a 'saturday night special' look like some sort of futuristic H&K design concept, you may be inclined to consider the absence of 'normal' features to be mere shodiness, rather than a sign that it's a different part entirely.)

        Yes, a maker-whatever 3D printer in your garage cannot be expected to make a decent firearm, even by the most liberal definition of a firearm, but it is enough to make a drop-in auto sear conversion to modify an existing semi-auto to full auto that would at least be good for one spray in a drive-by. Then print as many as you like. That's what a more practical criminal mind would be inclined to do.

  • Is there really a risk of "organised crime groups" making plastic guns? My understanding is that the ones that have been made are more proof of concept than something that would actually be particularly useful. On the other hand, there are plenty of places in Europe where guns are available, and hundreds of people take the ferry (or Le Shuttle through the tunnel) to and from Europe every day so if you really want to get hold of them, it's not going to be difficult.

    Do wonder why the police raided this guy
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The main fear is the ip tracking and forum reading/web 2.0 surveillance. What more countries will offer is police and local low level bureaucrats court powers to watch, track and log via any national isp. As for 3d printing wait a year until new products with new tech are on sale as key patents slip.
    • I suspect that ownership of a 3d printer (statistically) places you in the category of people who are approximately 45343465% more likely than the population at large to have done something on the internet(possibly from the command line) that would scare an AOL user, so they may have been sniffing after something in that vein.

      As for practical criminal interest, though? Absolutely zero so far demonstrated, largely because it doesn't resolve any ammunition supply challenges (and anyone who can do that can
  • Sure, the parts are not part of a 3D printed gun, but of the 3D printer itself, but with these parts the printer can be used to print a gun, which is what makes them so dangerous.

  • by mc6809e ( 214243 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:25AM (#45233183)

    They punish someone with the legal process, knowing they can't convict, but sending a message to anyone with a 3D printer that 3D printer owners can expect trouble from the state.

    • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:59AM (#45233527)

      Is that meant to be a prediction, or a statement of fact? If you read the article it becomes clear that they had search warrants as part of a targeted investigation into organised crime, and apparently were surprised to discover the 3D printer at one of the searched areas. Given that they arrested someone because they think he was making gunpowder, and because you can't make gunpowder with a 3D printer, it seems that they believed (correctly) that someone was trying to manufacture ammo and got a judge to issue a warrant on that basis. When they discovered the printer, they made the obvious logical conclusion - someone who is illegally making guns, and has a 3D printer, might be experimenting with 3D printing plastic guns. What else would he use it for?

      It may turn out in the course of events that the printer was used for something else, or making tools used to help make ammo rather than making gun parts, or something else. But ownership of the 3D printer is incidental. There isn't even any way they would know he had such a device, as far as I can tell.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're missing the reason why they raided this place originally. It wasn't because he was a guy who owned a 3d printer, it was because he was associated with criminal gangs in Manchester and they were raiding him and others to confiscate the proceeds of crime. This was one of the things they found, alongside ~$3.5m in counterfeit goods, $500k of drugs and $50k in cash and 50 people arrested.

      When you find a 3d printer in the garage of a suspected gangster, you don't assume anything and investigate everything

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Police seized $1000 dollars in cash due to the possibility of obtaining a gun with said cash.... source: future...

    • by Justpin ( 2974855 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @09:51AM (#45233459)
      Thats not funny, SOCPA 2005 prohibits carrying more than £2000 of cash on you without good reason with the penalty of forfeiture if you can't prove where it came from. In fact a few years ago the London police went for a smash and grab of safe deposit boxes, it was all declared illegal except people went and started claiming it back with receipts.
  • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @10:27AM (#45233935)

    Is printing gun components illegal in the UK?

    In the US, the only part of a gun that is controlled is the receiver. What are the laws in the UK?

    It's hard to believe that making or owning a trigger is illegal in the UK since low-power pellets guns (which use triggers) are legal. That said, UK gun laws are so restrictive, that I am sure they try to control high-capacity magazines. (UK high-capacity meaning more than two rounds.)

  • by Macdude ( 23507 ) on Friday October 25, 2013 @11:37AM (#45235189)

    A Manchester plumber was arrested for having a van full of "bomb" making material.

    His pleas of "It's just pipe for a sink" went unheeded.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"