Blue Line

Features Editor’s Commentary Opinion
Gunfighting in a 3D-printing world

As Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair announced federal funding to target gun violence and illegal firearms last month, I went back to thinking of the 3D firearm printing debacle in the U.S. this summer.


December 21, 2018
By Renée Francoeur
Renée Francoeur

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I recall exhaling in exasperation when I read President Donald Trump had tweeted he was “looking into” the downloadable blueprints from Defense Distributed, which would allow people to make their own guns with ABS plastic resin and a 3D printer, but added it “doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Defense Distributed, based in Texas, was later ordered to shut down its file repository by a federal judge in Washington.

After midterms, a member of the Texas House brought forth a bill that would require anyone who makes a 3D-printed gun to apply for a serial number with the Texas Department of Public Safety. Researchers in Buffalo effectively found 3D printers leave behind fingerprints, so to speak, so there were some collective sighs of relief; though this still doesn’t account for how 3D-printed weapons make police investigations more difficult and time consuming from a forensics viewpoint.

I get it – the headlines coming out of the States at the time were emotional. The technology has been around for a while and, even though huge advances have been made and one can obtain a 3D printer easily enough, it’s still a complex process that requires quite a bit of dough and even more effort.

The thing is, as pointed out by a Fortune magazine writer, the larger problem is the availability of such information, which could essentially put more firearms into more hands — unlicensed hands, young hands, any hands. The thing is: gun violence has been an ugly reality this year. And it’s killing people.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks shootings, there have been 307 “mass shootings” (the definition seems to be somewhat ambivalent) so far in 2018 in the U.S. On page 20 in this December issue, we also learn how the rate of violent firearm offences in Canada increased in 2017 for the third year in a row.

Of course, Canada and the States are very different when it comes to weapons culture. The 3D gun printing issue was never up for serious, polarizing concern here. Public Safety Canada said there are rules already in place to prevent unauthorized weapons from being made, stating: “Regardless of manufacturing method, a business licence is required to produce a firearm and all firearms are subject to the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code and their associated regulations.”

I’m thankful for our legislation. That’s Canada and that’s why this annual “firearms” issue of Blue Line doesn’t just look at the fastest optics for our tactical teams and the slick new weapon the RCMP is piloting… we’re also looking into solutions for proactively policing gun and gang violence.

We know now Canada’s illegal guns are largely being sourced domestically. It’s time to tackle our local gun traffickers – those obtaining firearms legally, but selling them illegally. I agree a bolstered police presence is but one of many solutions needed and I hope the $86 million from the feds for detection training and technology enhancements will truly help.

CORRECTION: In my October editorial, I incorrectly stated the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) Conference came to Canada for the first time this year. In fact, the first time was in 2000 in Toronto. Thanks to Staff Sgt. Jo-Ann Savoie of Hamilton Police Service for letting us know.