3D printable firearm blueprint possession now carries jail time in NSW

The NSW government has made several amendments to the 19 year-old Firearms Act which includes the addition of jail time for those in possession of blueprints for 3D printable guns.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Residents of New South Wales found in possession of blueprints for 3D printable firearms may find themselves behind bars for over a decade.

The NSW government amended the Firearms Act 1996 and the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 last week, issuing several additions under the Firearms and Weapons Prohibition Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 which includes the creation of the new offence relating to 3D printed guns.

Under the amendment, it is now considered an offence to possess digital blueprints for the manufacture of firearms on 3D printers or electronic milling machines.

The new offence carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

Owning or using a 3D printed gun is already illegal under existing legislation and is treated the same way as a conventional firearm.

According to the Bill, exempt from prosecution are those authorised to manufacture the prohibited weapon concerned by way of a permit, or those other than a police officer acting in the ordinary course of their duties as a member of the Police Force.

The Bill defines a digital blueprint as any type of digital or electronic reproduction of a technical drawing of the design of an object, and considers possession of a digital blueprint to include the possession of a computer or data storage device holding or containing the blueprint or of a document in which the blueprint is recorded; as well as control of the blueprint held in a computer that is in the possession of another person, be inside or outside of NSW.

"In amending the Firearms Act and Weapons Prohibition Act, the NSW government wants to be on the front foot of any emerging technologies that pose a threat to our community," a spokeswoman for NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice and Police Troy Grant told The Huffington Post Australia.

It was also reported by the online publication that Roderic Broadhurst, Australian National University professor of criminology, said recent leaps forward in the quality, and reductions in price of 3D printing technology had made such laws vital.

"The big story in 2013 was a plastic gun that could fire one bullet, but they can be made of metal now," Broadhurst said. "If you went online and searched, you'd be astonished what is there.

"3D printers have become less costly and much more capable. In this university, about 12 years ago we bought a very sophisticated printer for AU$750,000; the same quality today would be about AU$2,500, second-hand, and would fit on your desk."

The amended Bill also covers the acts of downloading or uploading the plans to, or from, file sharing services.

In 2012, a series of photos published on an online firearms enthusiast forum gave the public initial insights into how 3D printers could be used to produce some of the essential parts found in working firearms.

At the time, the creation was reportedly tested and 200 rounds were successfully fired out of the 3D printed device without any signs of malfunction or complications.

A month later, a project dubbed the Wiki Weapon Project saw a group of Texas-based gun rights activists, known as Defense Distributed, attempt to crowd fund the design and distribution of a downloadable CAD file which would allow the end user to 3D-print a working firearm.

The group estimated that they would need to raise at least $20,000 to accomplish their goal and attempted to collect donations through crowdfunding website IndieGoGo. However, the project was not up for long with the controversial listing violating the company's terms of service.

In May 2013, Defense Distributed released CAD files for the general public to print their own "Lulz Liberator" 3D printed handguns. The Liberator cost only $25 to produce, and was capable of firing eight rounds in a single barrel; it was also able to be reloaded.

Editorial standards