Man Arrested For Making Guns With 3D Printer
Yoshitomo Imura, a 27-year-old Japanese man, has been arrested for allegedly possessing a collection of guns. According to the Japan Times, these five guns are made of plastic, using a 3D printer. The suspect is an employee of Shonan Institute of Technology in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Imura used a commercial 3D printer he bought online for 60,000 yen (£349/$590) along with the blueprints he had downloaded from file-sharing sites. Those plans for a single-shot pistol were downloaded over 100,000 times in the first 4 days after they were uploaded. This case is the first of its kind in Japan. This country is famous for its strict regulations about owning a gun and the gun violence is extremely low. Only few people outside of the police or military possess guns or have ever come into contact with them.
How did the police find out about the guns? Imura posted a video online, in which he was showing the guns and talked about how he had produced them. His exact comment on Twitter was: “The right to bear firearms is a basic human right.” After that, the police searched Imura’s home in Kawasaki in mid-April and found a collection of guns, but no bullets.
“I produced the guns, but I didn’t think it was illegal,” Imura said. He added: “I can’t complain about the arrest if the police regard them as real guns.” Although they are made of plastic, it was possible with two of the guns to pierce over ten pieces of plywood by firing rounds, and the police concluded it was possible to use the guns to kill.
If these 3D guns were considered to be fully functional handguns, Imura could face 1-10 years in jail. On the other hand, if the police decide to view these printed guns only as a collection of parts then the possible outcome could be up to 3 years in jail or a 500,000 yen fine.
This news is worrying. Weapons made from 3D-printed parts may be undetectable by normal security equipment and metal detectors. In October 2013, there was widespread media coverage over the discovery of a ‘gun making factory’ in Manchester. Concerns over 3D weapons prompted the US Congress to renew a ban on guns that contain no metal but concerns amongst legislators and law enforcement persist. In the UK, police are also concerned about the use of this new technology. The printers are very cheap, blueprints available online and the cost per weapon is very low – only £16 or $26.