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3D printed guns - what is the position in the UK?

View profile for Correna Platt
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3D printed guns - what is the position in the UK?

Since 2013 there has been a legal battle in the USA between a Texas man Cody Wilson and the US government.

In 2015 Wilson was forced to remove the blue prints he had put on the web for a 3D printed gun he called the Liberator. The Trump administration reversed the Obama decision in June 2018 giving him clearance to post the blue prints. Wilson said that he would republish the instructions on August 1st 2018.

The BBC reported that the gun access advocacy group Defense Distributed published downloadable gun blueprints five days early on the 27th July 2018. A US federal judge in Seattle has blocked the release of the blue prints. A temporary restraining order was issued halting the release hours before the 1st August deadline saying that the blueprints could fall into the wrong hands. A further hearing has been scheduled for the 10th August 2018.

Position in the UK

To clarify the position in the UK the Home Office issued specific guidance on this point. The Home Office guide on firearms licencing law specifically states:

The manufacture, purchase, sale and possession of 3D printed firearms, ammunition or component parts is fully captured by the provisions in Section 57(1) of the Firearms Act 1968.

The definition of firearm in the act includes any component parts.

3D printed firearms are subject to strict control in the following respects:

A. Under section 1 of the 1968 Act , it is an offence for an individual to possess, purchase or acquire any component part of a firearm without a certificate

B. Under section 3 of the 1968 Act , it is an offence for a person to manufacture or possess for sale a component part of a firearm acting by way of trade or business  

C. Under section 5 of the 1968 Act, it is an offence for a person to possess, purchase, acquire, manufacture, sell, transfer, possess for sale or transfer a component part of a prohibited weapon without the authority of the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

The expression firearm in the 1968 act means a lethal barrelled weapon of any description or component part of such weapon, from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged. 3D printed weapons are potentially lethally barrelled weapons and must be viewed as such in law.

The method of manufacture is not material to the consideration. The Home Office did feel it was appropriate to specifically refer to 3D printed guns even though they were always illegal and remain illegal.

Clearly it follows if someone were to possess, purchase, manufacture or sell a firearm or its component parts otherwise in accordance with the requirements of section 1, 3 and 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 they would be liable to prosecution.

If you are arrested for any firearms offences please do contact Stephensons on 01616 966 229. We have an experienced criminal legal team and use the service of expert counsel and independent expert witnesses when required.