Things are getting a little futuristic in Manchester, England, where police recently arrested a man for allegedly 3D printing gun parts. They seized said parts, but after the images made their way online, the internet fired back with a startling revelation. Those aren't 3D-printed gun parts. Those are 3D-printed 3D printer parts.
It's a convincing claim. While Manchester police believe they found a 3D-printed trigger and magazine, side-by-side images of the parts and components on Thingiverse suggest that they're actually a part that extrudes a 3D printer's plastic filament and a part that holds the spool (see above). The police are investigating the findings but aren't shy about jumping to conclusions about the implications of a 3D-printed gun invasion.
"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," Detective Inspector Chris Mossop said in a statement. "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."
So there's a lot going on here. It does sound like the arrested man was up to no good. In addition to the suspected gun parts, police believe the man was making gun powder. And after they found air rifles and a 3D printer in the apartment, police just jumped to conclusions, the suspect says. Then again, the 3D-printed gun threat is a very real one. Authorities around the world have been quietly freaking out about the possibility of people printing guns in their garages since Cody Wilson and the guys at Austin-based Defense Distributed built the world's first 3D printed gun and posted the plans online. The State Department has since gotten the Texans to take the plans down but not after they'd been downloaded thousands of times.
That in mind, Detective Inspector Mossop is not wrong in believing that these plastic but lethal guns are a threat. Not everybody that owns a 3D printer is making them, though, and jumping to conclusions in situations like this is only adding to the hysteria. Trust me: There's already enough hysteria to go around. [GigaOm]
Images via Manchester Police / Thingiverse