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Defense Distributed via YouTube
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Liberator - Dawn of the Wiki Weapons
The perceived danger of the 3D-printed gun has been a matter of debate ever since Cody Wilson debuted The Liberator last year.
In the subsequent months, 3D printed guns have been making the headlines in the mainstream media - take the Daily Mail journalist who smuggled a bogus 3D-printed gun onto the Eurostar or the supposed '3D-printed gun factory' unearthed in Manchester that turned out to be a nothing more than a spool holder and extruder key. But the threat 3D-printed guns pose to human life remains a subject that has been disputed by many and it seems the powers that be have taken matters into their own hands, as New Scientist reports the British Government has been conducting its own tests on 3D-printed firearms.
According to the science and technology periodical, the Government has 3D-printed "at least one gun" to ascertain how much of a danger it could present to the public.
At a meeting of the Home Office Science Advisory Council (HOSAC) in July 2013, Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) researcher Richard Lacey went into some detail as how firearms produced using additive manufacturing form part of the organisation's so-called "horizon scanning" efforts when it comes to monitoring new technologies.
CAST, which advises the Government on scientific issues relating to crime prevention, used a 3D printer to produce a gun based on plans downloaded from the internet. However, the gun failed to fire.
A Home Office spokesperson told New Scientist: "Our Centre for Applied Science and Technology uses 3D printers, software and a 3D scanner to update and enhance its design engineering capability, which is central to the work it undertakes. The equipment is used in a range of CAST projects including trials and testing."
Simultaneously, CAST has been looking into 3D printing handcuff keys, batteries, body parts, electronics and unmanned aerial vehicles as part of its research into additive manufacturing.
The Home Office did not confirm when queried by New Scientist whether the information used to produce the 3D-printed gun in its tests was sourced from Defense Distributed, the US-based group that released 3D printing plans for Wilson's Liberator last year. The Liberator has been downloaded across the globe, including the UK, and recently-amended Home Office guidelines on firearms licensing explicitly prohibits the manufacture, purchase, sale and possession of 3D-printed guns without the authority of the Home Secretary, under the Firearms Act of 1968.
The legislation confirms that weapons produced using additive manufacturing are "potentially lethal" and have to be viewed as such in the eyes of the law even though "the method of manufacture is not material to this consideration".
Even though there is no evidence that criminals in the UK have been attempting to manufacture guns using a 3D printer, Criminologist at the University of Brighton Peter Squires agrees it is reassuring they have fallen under the gaze of UK lawmakers.
Squires was quoted by New Scientist as saying: "There were about 100,000 downloads of the software from the web, and I think it is more the evasion of border controls, the fact that a weapon can travel through fibre-optic cables. They want to make it absolutely clear the status of the item in question is illegal."
This ruling follows the decision made by the US Senate in December 2013 to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 with the intention of preventing a rise in the production of 3D-printed guns.
To read the original New Scientist article, click here.