Guns produced by 3D printers have been recorded by police in Scotland for the first time.
Two incidents were logged in the middle of last year, with police now in talks with UK-wide forces about how best to tackle the problem.
Details about the cases are limited, but a Freedom of Information request by 1919 Magazine has revealed that an incident occurred in the Argyll and West Dunbartonshire division in April, followed by another in Tayside a month later.
In both cases, the devices were sent to police laboratories for analysis.
The issue was also flagged by forensic services, who told the Scottish Police Authority they were receiving increasingly complex cases involving the 3D printed weapons which “required additional capacity to complete”.
Experts warned the guns are cheap and easy to produce, although unlikely to cause the public an increased risk. They are illegal under updated UK-wide legislation.
Police Scotland said it was keeping on top of the issue and spoke regularly with bodies such as the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS).
Firearms expert witness David Dyson told said: “People who want 3D printed guns fall into two general categories – serious criminals who would look to get their hands on firearms anyway, and people who simply have a curiosity about guns but mean no harm.
“Criminals, especially those involved in drugs, have something to protect, and may be interested.
“They can be made quite quickly and easily from a 3D printer, and then you need some metal components – it requires a bit of skill but a fairly practical person would be able to do it.
“But it’s not the Wild West – police are able to bring charges against people, and even just having the information may be enough in terms of terrorism-related charges.”
Three-dimensional printing gained popularity at the turn of the century, and by the mid-2010s was being used commonly across a variety of legitimate industries.
However, the global criminal community also spotted an opportunity to use the technology to their advantage, and 3D firearms began trading across the world.
That has enabled illicit websites to upload simple instructions for ‘do it yourself’ homemade firearms, with US Homeland Security going as far as saying the developments “present public safety risks”.
In the UK, 3D printed guns were considered to have de facto illegal status by virtue of being a firearm.
However, the UK Government updated legislation in November 2022 to specifically include them as part of the 1968 Firearms Act.
That means it is an offence to possess, buy or produce component parts for a 3D printed gun.
Across the UK, 17 such weapons were seized in 2022, up from three the year before.
Police Scotland detective inspector Derek Whiteford said: “Emerging trends are constantly monitored, and we work with key partners, including NCA, NABIS, UK police forces, and prosecutors, to keep informed of any new or existing illegal firearm design and production.
“We regularly exchange information and intelligence to help prevent the risk posed by the manufacture, distribution and possession of 3D printed firearms.”
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