On January 5, 2021, Singapore’s Parliament passed Bill No. 44/2020, Guns, Explosives, and Weapons Control Bill, which makes possession of 3D gun blueprints a criminal offence without a licence.
The legislative change is designed to stop unauthorized 3D printing of “major” gun parts but does not apply to accessories that can be fitted to a firearm, such as flash suppressors, silencers or a host of other items.
Bill No. 44/2020 replaces the former Arms and Explosives Act, which already required individuals or companies involved in importing, selling or building firearms and explosives to be licensed, and already included printing 3D firearms.
Unauthorised possession of digital blueprints for manufacture of guns, etc.
13.—(1) A person commits an offence if —
(a) the person possesses a digital blueprint for the manufacture of a gun or a major part of a gun on a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine; and
(b) the person is not one of the following:
(i) a person granted a licence to manufacture the gun or major part of a gun using a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine;
(ii) a person exempt from this section under section 87, 88 or 89 in relation to that manufacture of the gun or major part of a gun.
Individuals convicted under this new section face a maximum of 12 months in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both. For repeat offenders those penalties jump to 18 months and $25,000, respectively.
Corporate entities convicted under this new section face a maximum fine of $25,000, which doubles for repeat offenders.
Desmond Tan, Singapore’s Minister of State for Home Affairs, when asked how this legislation would be enforced, said the police would rely on tips from the public to identify “potential lone wolves 3D printing guns illegally with intent to cause harm.”
Why bother passing a law nobody really intends to enforce?
For the same reason so many useless laws are passed in legislatures around the world – so politicians can dutifully report they’ve “done something” to keep the sheep safe.
Australia’s state of New South Wales criminalized the unauthorized possession of 3D firearm blueprints in 2015, and in late 2019 U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik ruled posting 3D firearm blueprints online was illegal.
The cat was long out of the bag, though, as innovator Cody Wilson and others posted their blueprints to the internet long before the decision.
You can still find 3D firearm blueprints on many sites the internet and downloading and possessing these files is not a crime in most countries, including Canada.
In Canada, a Firearm Business License (FBL) is required to manufacture a firearm. This includes 3D-printed firearms, says Ministry of Public Safety spokesperson Tim Warmington.
“It is illegal to manufacture or possess a firearm without the appropriate licence and applicable registration certificate. The Firearms Act requires that a business, museum, or organization must have a firearms business licence to manufacture ammunition, firearms, restricted or prohibited weapons, or prohibited devices. A business licence is valid only for the activities specified on the licence.”
“If law enforcement found an individual in possession of a 3D printer-manufactured firearm or parts of a firearm (e.g., magazines, barrels), without appropriate licences and registration, the firearm could be seized and the individual charged,” said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Greg Cox.
On September 20, 2020, a 53-year-old Alberta man had the dubious pleasure of being the first person charged for manufacturing and distributing 3D-printed guns and gun parts. His case has yet to go to trial.
In 2014, the Ministry of Public Safety commissioned an intelligence report on 3D-printed firearms but that tender faded into the black hole of government procurement when nobody bid on the project.
From the explanatory section of Singapore’s legislation:
Clause 13 provides for an offence of unauthorised possession of digital blueprints for manufacture of guns.
It is now possible for digital 3D gun technology to be applied in conjunction with an additive manufacturing process (i.e., 3D printing) to make a physical and operative gun. Technology advancements associated with the application of digital 3D models and 3D printers are increasing and cost inhibitors are reducing.
While there are many positive uses of such technology including for medical, scientific and industrial purposes, the same technology can also be applied though for criminal purposes.
Accordingly, clause 13 seeks to ensure that the law keeps pace with technology to effectively protect the community. A person who wants to make a digital 3D gun or a 3D major part of a gun by an additive manufacturing process will need an extra licence to do so.
While the making of a digital 3D gun or a 3D major part of a gun by an additive manufacturing process would constitute manufacturing within the meaning of clause 12, clause 13 makes it an offence for a person to possess a digital blueprint for the manufacture of a gun or major part of a gun on a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine and the person is either not granted a licence or a class licence to manufacture the gun or major part of a gun using a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine, or is not exempt because of clause 87, 88 or 89 in relation to that manufacture.
You can watch the Q&A session from Singapore’s Parliament here.
peter bolten says
is this the country that has big flaring signs at border entry points warning people that possession of any amount any drugs is an execution offense?
If so, those ‘unlicensed’ blue prints in a handbag might also become a capital offense?
Christopher di Armani says
No, at least not yet, Peter. But who knows what tomorrow will bring. Certainly not me.
Clive Edwards says
It is insanity to believe that bureaucrats can save a single life by denying others the right to self defence. by licensing that right.. Besides, I can do more damage in terms of self defence with my brass handled hardwood walking stick than some dork with a single shot computer printed pistol. If guns were as common as cars we would likely notice that an order of magnitude more people die due to vehicles than to guns.
But then the gun mystique would not exist, and governments would need to walk the walk of democracy, not merely talk the talk backed up by armed government agents.
My aggressive self defence attitude and whatever tools, or lack of tools, that are at hand are all I need to keep myself and my family safe. It helps having a wife who is an even better shot than I am..
Gerry Kirkham. says
Hi Christopher, Beyond the need to keep us updated on firearms issues around the world in general, I pondered the need for an in depth article of something that was happening in Singapore. Although Singapore is said to be a Democracy, it is far more authoritarian than just about and other “Democracy” out there.
I have had the opportunity to visit and stay in that city a number of time in my life, and it is a very clean, and orderly city. However, don’t you dare spit on the street or sidewalk, or drop any item of garbage, no matter how small. The rules and regulations there are very strict, and an arrest and short stay in the local jail will be accompanied with a few bruises at least, administered by the local police. It is a nice place to visit, and I’ve had the best steak I ever had in my life there, but living there with the heavy intolerance of authority lurking about, it’s not a place to live, unless you are very wealthy. My only surprise in your article, was that they took this long to get around to creating this law. I will admit to not having any idea of the firearms ownership policy there, but I would suspect, again, that unless you are wealthy, you will not be allowed to own firearms anywhere on the Island of Singapore. What is always apparent around the planet, is that most governments fear their citizens owning guns, because when a government steps out of line far enough, there might be a citizen backed correction, which will be far more likely with an armed population. I would also suggest, that unfortunately we might now see how such a thing would unfold, in the armed population nation next door to us. As I suspect one of the first major policies to be updated, will be an attempt to change laws and destroy the Second Amendment!
Christopher di Armani says
The “need” for the article was because it interested me, Gerry, same as every article I write. 🙂
I’m not overly knowledgeable on Singapore’s firearm laws either, but will be investigating in the weeks ahead as from what I could glean from this specific issue, they appeared to be more interested in making sure people were licenced than in cracking down on them.
Regarding our southern neighbours, yes, Biden’s first order of business will be to attempt to take away the guns. Challenging times ahead, to be sure.
Arie Intveld says
Don’t need no stinkin’ 3D blueprints to make a Saturday night special! The plumbing department at Home Depot will do just fine.
It’s more than dubious that gangbangers are frantically downloading 3D blueprints or CNC instruction sets for making guns. Just like our OIC-induced gun ban, Singapore has joined the global virtuosity tour by legislating new, vote-mining, vacuous solutions to problems which rarely manifest themselves.
“The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”-Tacitus