Concerns about 3D firearms, the police and the Public Prosecution Service want a ban on design sharing

The Dutch police are concerned about the rise of 3D-printed firearms. These are increasingly found both here and abroad. Police and justice are calling for a ban on the distribution of designs for 3D weapons.

Last year, the police found 14 times 3D firearms or parts for them. It was the first time that the police encountered such weapons in the Netherlands. The police also discovered a number of workshopswhere firearms were printed on a larger scale.

3D firearms have also been found a few times this year, says Andy Kraag, head of the national investigation. “We see that these weapons are reaching a new target group: people who are not part of the criminal circuit, but who do want to have a weapon, such as people with extremist ideas.”

protect themselves

This is how the police took in February a suspected right-wing extremist in the Zeeland village of Zonnemaire. In addition to flags with swastikas, he was in possession of a 3D printed semi-automatic weapon and live ammunition. According to the police, the man wanted a weapon to protect himself.

As far as is known, no weapons from the 3D printer have been used in shootings in the Netherlands, but they have been used abroad. For example, the perpetrator of the scale in the German city of Halle in 2019 homemade weapons.

There seems to be interest not only among extremists, but also among hobbyists who enjoy experimenting with making 3D weapons. Dangerous, police warn. Shooting tests show that the weapons are very unreliable. “A lot of expertise is needed to properly assemble such a weapon,” says Kraag. “In the worst case scenario, it will explode when you fire.”

Punishable

Having 3D weapons (or parts thereof) is prohibited in the Netherlands. The same rules apply as for regular firearms. But publishing and distributing the designs for 3D weapons is not punishable by law. That must change, according to the police and the Public Prosecution Service.

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“Such a manual has no other purpose than to create a 3D weapon,” said prosecutor Zlatko Trokic, in charge of dealing with firearms. “That’s an illegal target.”

Even though there will always be places on the internet where the files can be found, a ban on the distribution of manuals does make sense, according to Trokic. “I compare it to the distribution of child pornography. That cannot be stopped everywhere, but the criminalization makes it much more difficult to download it.”

Today the police are talking about tackling homemade weapons with other European countries and with manufacturers of 3D printers. “We are looking at whether we can also create technological barriers in printers, so that these kinds of blueprints are no longer accepted,” says Andy Kraag.

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