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.