Conference on how to deal with the threat of 3D-printed weapons in Europe

Law enforcement experts, ballistics experts, forensic scientists, policy makers and academics recently gathered in The Hague, Netherlands on one of the world’s largest platforms to exchange views on the threat posed by 3D-printed weapons.

At the International Conference on 3D-Printed Firearms, organized by Europol and Dutch police as part of EMPACT Firearms and hosted by Leiden University, some 120 participants from 20 countries looked at the latest challenges to firearms law enforcement in combating this threat.

Over the course of two days (May 24-25, 2022), participants examined the key processes required to develop joint intervention strategies in the field, including tactical and forensic research, software, scientific developments, and legislation.

Police Commissioner Gerda van Leeuwen of the Dutch National Police opened the conference by saying: “The development of 3D printing for firearms is a current and future threat. International cooperation is therefore crucial to be able to counter it. This conference will not only focus on the current situation, but also on building A strong network of subject matter specialists, developing intervention techniques and sharing best practices.”

Europol Weapons and Explosives Analysis Project Team Leader, Martin van der Meege added: “The threat posed by 3D-printed weapons is largely on Europol’s radar as more and more of these weapons have been seized in investigations across Europe in recent years. Only meet this challenge by bringing together the expertise, resources and intelligence of law enforcement, the private sector and academia to phase out these weapons.”

3D printed weapons are no longer fancy

In 2019, in Halle, Germany, two people were shot dead by a perpetrator who used a homemade pistol based on a scheme downloaded from the Internet to partially make the rifle using a 3D printer.

In April 2021, the Spanish National Police raided an illegal workshop in the Canary Islands that was producing 3D-printed weapons. In addition to two 3D printers, weapon parts, a replica assault rifle, and several manuals on urban guerrilla warfare and white supremacy literature were also confiscated. The owner of the workshop was arrested and charged with possession of an illegal weapon.

A month later, two men and a woman were arrested in the UK town of Kelly as part of an investigation into right-wing terrorism. The three were accused of possessing components for 3D-printed weapons.

Conference results

  • Communication and cooperation between law enforcement and industry/private sector is essential to identify and monitor developments related to 3D printed firearms;
  • To create an international network of 3D-printed firearms experts to keep law enforcement informed of developments in the field of 3D-printed firearms;
  • Participants’ key policy recommendations and other developments related to 3D-printed firearms will be summarized in a fact sheet that is distributed to partners and policy makers around the world.

You can learn more about Europol here.


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