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Queensland man charged with ‘printing’ guns

Printed gun AAP
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Police say Queensland has adequate laws to deal with a man accused of using a 3D printer to make gun parts.

The 28-year-old is facing drug and weapons charges after police found printed gun parts, a loaded sawn-off rifle, knuckle dusters and cannabis plants at a Mudgeeraba home on Tuesday.

It’s alleged he used the high-tech printer to make enough parts to assemble up to four guns.

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The seizure, which was the first of its kind in Queensland, has raised fresh questions about whether states and territories have adequate laws to deal with printed weapons.

That subject is currently being examined by a federal Senate committee, which is due to report back in March.

Gold Coast Detective Inspector Scott Knowles says Queensland’s existing weapons act covers printed weapons, and those laws will be used if ballistics experts deem the parts to be weapons.

“It’s obvious we need law enforcement and the state to keep abreast of this technology but the current laws are sufficient to address this issue at this point in time,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

The printed components could see the man charged with possession of concealable firearms or manufacturing component parts of weapons, which attract maximum terms of seven and 10 years respectively.

But former Queensland MP Carl Judge, who tried but failed last year to amend the weapons act to deal with printed guns, said the new state government might want to revisit the issue.

The former police officer believes there’s a strong argument to ban the possession of computer software needed to print weapons.

“It should be an offence to possess the computer programs that allow you to hit print, in the same way it’s an offence to possess the precursor drugs used to make speed,” he told AAP.

Mr Judge cited the case of American man Cody Wilson, who made news when he uploaded plans for the 3D printed ‘Liberator’ gun. It was downloaded 100,000 times before US authorities acted.

“That should frighten everyone,” Mr Judge said.

He said there seemed to be some complacency around the issue because printed guns are currently unstable and prone to exploding when they are fired.

But Mr Judge said companies were already using 3D printers to make metal bike frames, and it wouldn’t be long until the issue of weapon safety was overcome.

He said when that happened, printed weapons could pose a major threat in terms of organised crime and terrorism.

Police have located the printer used to make the parts.

It belonged to a legitimate Gold Coast business, whose owners had no idea it was being misused.

“[The printer] was given to him to calibrate and he’s obviously then decided to help himself in terms of what he wanted out of the printer,” Det Insp Knowles said.

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