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May 26, 2021

3D Printing is Not an Easy or Popular Way for Criminals to Obtain Firearms


It presents a high barrier of entry with cost of production units, raw materials, and proprietary knowledge that criminals are not inclined to use 3D printing to produce firearms.

Criminals have Easier, Cheaper Sources

3D Printing is Not an Easy or Popular Way for Criminals to Obtain Firearms

There have been no reports of a criminal using 3D printing to manufacture a firearm. In fact, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has publicly stated they have never had a trace request for a firearm produced by 3D printing and there has never been such a firearm used in a crime.1 Considering that it would be easier and cheaper for criminals to make a firearm through more “traditional” means, the development of this technology will not change the fact that criminals have easier and cheaper avenues to obtain firearms. According to a January 2019 U.S. Department of Justice survey of prison inmates, less than one percent (0.8) of criminals that possessed a firearm during their current offense acquired their guns from gun shows. By contrast, nearly 50 percent reported acquiring their guns illegally, such as by theft or on the black market.2

Furthermore, firearms produced using this advanced manufacturing technology are already heavily regulated under current law.

Criminals Break the Law

If the argument is that criminals won’t follow the existing laws and regulations, there is no evidence they will abide by new laws. By definition, criminals don’t have respect for the law. Rather than layering another level of regulation on law-abiding hobbyists and businesses, lawmakers should seek enforcement of the existing stringent laws and regulations.

Learn more about so-called Ghost Guns.


1 Testimony of Earl Griffith, Chief, Firearms Technology Branch, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, to the United Nations Second Open-Ended Meeting of Government Experts, June 1, 2015.
2 Mariel Alper, Ph.D., and Lauren Glaze, Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, “Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016,” NCJ 251776, January 2019.

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