The state of Pennsylvania seized two 3D printers that were allegedly being used to make illegal “ghost guns”.
According to a report on Lehigh Valley Live, the “convicted felon” Kenneth Wilson was arrested for a number of illegal activities, notably dealing in various illegal substances and associated hardware. In the USA, convicted felons are not allowed to possess firearms, and several were discovered during the arrest.
Also discovered was two 3D printers apparently being used to produce weapons. The police found three “ghost gun frames”.
For many years I’ve written on the same answer on this subject: 3D printed guns are not really a thing. While it is possible with some effort, optimal materials and proper hardware, to produce a weapon that may or may not fire safely, it’s just not worth the effort.
3D printed weapons have very limited capabilities due to the polymers being used instead of metals as are used in traditional weapons. On the other hand, polymers are harder to detect with metal scanning equipment. However, polymer weapons don’t function without using some metal parts and certainly standard ammunition.
It’s not worth it because far superior weapons can be made much more easily with common metal CNC equipment, which might be more available in any city than 3D printers capable of making proper weapons.
In this case I was curious to know whether this perp was able to actually produce a usable weapon. Perhaps Wilson was using an advanced machine with metal materials?
An image provided by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office shows the 3D printer in question.
It’s a Creality Ender 3, one of the lowest-cost 3D printers available, and while it’s fully capable of printing plastic dragons, the notion of producing heavy-duty weapons with it is questionable.
Was this a true danger? Was this fellow producing dangerous weapons?
I suspect not. It appears that this individual was targeted by the authorities due to other more serious crimes. During the arrest they happened to find some 3D printers and probably decided to pile on some additional charges, particularly when they found “gun frames”, whatever that is. It’s likely these “frames” were a component of a weapon, but not a functioning weapon.
This incident is concluded, but I’m a bit fearful of the aftermath. Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, tweeted afterwards:
“Untraceable, untrackable weapons can be made from a 3D printer in minutes.
Today, my Office seized a 3D printer from a convicted felon in Northampton County who was using it to make illegal guns.
Closing the ghost gun loophole is imperative to keeping people safe.”
I’m quite puzzled how an Ender 3 3D printer could produce a functioning weapon in “minutes”.
Could this lead to some sort of restrictions being placed on 3D printers? In an effort to quell a basically non-existent threat, legislators may unnecessarily burden an emerging technology before it’s even taken hold.
I hope not.