Greater Manchester Police say they cannot yet “categorically say” whether material siezed in a series of raids in Wythenshawe are component parts of the the UK’s first 3D printed gun.
As part of Operation Challenger, police raided homes the Baguley area on Thursday 24 October 2013 and found a 3D printer and what is suspected to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable gun.
But today, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: “We need to be absolutely clear that at that this stage, we cannot categorically say we have recovered the component parts for a 3D gun.
“What we have seized are items that need further forensic testing by national ballistics experts to establish whether they can be used in the construction of a genuine, viable firearm.
“We will also be conducting a thorough analysis of computers we have recovered to establish any evidence of a blueprint on how to construct such a weapon.
“Clearly the fact we have seized a 3D printer and have intelligence about the possible production of a weapon using this technology is of concern. It prudent we establish exactly what these parts can be used for and whether they pose any threat.
“What this has also done is open up a wider debate about the emerging threat these next generation of weapons might pose.
“The worrying thing is for me is that these printers can be used to make certain components of guns, while others can be legitimately ordered over the Internet without arousing suspicion. When put together, this could allow a person to construct a firearm in their own home.
“Thanks to Challenger, which is the biggest ever multi-agency response to organised crime in Greater Manchester’s history, we now have even greater resources to combat any emerging threats posed by organised criminal gangs, which may include the production of these weapons.Under Challenger we will a multi-agency action plan for every single organised crime group in Manchester and we will target these networks from every possible angle, hitting them where it hurts.”
A man has been arrested on suspicion of making gunpowder and remains in custody for questioning.
The technology works by allowing anyone who has a 3D printer – which can be bought on the high street for about £1,200 – to download designs for guns or components. The printers themselves squirt molten plastic to produce 3D shapes of whatever design has been downloaded.
The model can then be converted to become a genuine firearm capable of firing bullets.
Detective Inspector Chris Mossop of Challenger’s Organised Crime Coordination Unit said: “This is a really significant discovery for Greater Manchester Police.
“In theory, the technology essentially allows offenders to produce their own guns in the privacy of their own home, which they can then supply to the criminal gangs who are causing such misery in our communities. Because they are also plastic and can avoid X-ray detection, it makes them easy to conceal and smuggle.
“These could be the next generation of firearms and a lot more work needs to be done to understand the technology and the scale of the problem.
“If what we have seized today can, as we suspect, be used to make a genuine firearm then today will be an important milestone in the fight against this next generation of homemade weapons.
“I would strongly urge anyone who has information about the whereabouts of a gun in their community to call us.”