Gun laws and 3D printing spark backlash from gun owners and shooters

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Gun owners and shooters say WA’s new gun laws show a lack of knowledge and an unwarranted fear of guns.

The new laws, which took effect May 18, ban 3D-printed guns and potentially printers as well.

It comes after WA Police seized a working, unlicensed, 3D-printed firearm from an 18-year-old man in the Perth suburb of Bayswater on June 3.

The firearm was created from a model designed in Europe known as the F**k Gun Control 9mm (FGC 9).

Different looking guns may have the same functionality.(ABC Radio Perth: Declan Taylor)

Printed using files available on the internet, this is a semi-automatic rifle designed to fire a 9mm cartridge with each pull of the trigger.

Blair Smith, an officer with the WA Drug and Firearm Squad, expressed concern about the manufacture of firearms such as the one seized.

“This firearm, despite looking like a toy, has the ability to cause serious harm within our community,” said Staff Sergeant Smith.

“It is deeply concerning that this man was able to build his firearm at home with a 3D printer and readily available materials.”

He said guns were unregulated, unlicensed and had no place in the community.

Difficult to regulate

E-Jet Printing managing director Elliot Theunissen said it felt like a plastic gun could just be printed and used to fire.

“I think it’s important to remember that the recently seized firearm also contains metallic components,” he said.

Pictured is a 3D printer with a 3D figurine made from plastic filament that is heated and extruded like a hot glue gun.
3D printers heat the filament and print it in layers.(Provided: Creality 3D technology)

“So it’s not as easy to make this out of a cheap machine as one might think.”

He said he didn’t think there was much point in trying to regulate printing equipment.

“I just think it’s already way too much,” he said.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult to regulate what’s already on the internet as well.”

More than 3D printing

A 2014 Senate investigation into gun violence found trying to block 3D printer technology would be futile.

“There is evidence that firearms and/or parts can be produced by a reasonably competent handyman in his home workshop,” according to the inquest’s findings.

The findings also state that 3D printers “were in no way integral to the illegal manufacture of firearms.”

The Firearms Amendment Act 2022, which came into force in May, contains numerous provisions that have left licensed gun owners feeling targeted.

The laws increase penalties for people who illegally manufacture, repair or sell a firearm, a major part of a firearm, a prohibited firearm accessory or ammunition.

A gun owner – who did not want to be identified – said the ban on aesthetic and functional features on currently legal firearms was “Orwellian and restrictive”.

He said the changes could potentially cost thousands of dollars.

For example, laws will prohibit collapsible and adjustable stocks which are used to allow safe handling, ease of storage and to prevent damage outdoors and while hiking in the bush.

Having historical books with gun diagrams or recorded YouTube videos on the subject of guns, gun home repair, or 3D printing could result in jail time or fine.

“Rarely logical” changes

Beaton Firearms owner Zaine Beaton, who is the second generation of his family business, said the laws were the strictest in the country and difficult to follow.

Zaine Beaton, owner of Beaton Guns, stands happily in his store as he speaks with a reporter.
Zaine Beaton, owner of Beaton Firearms, says changes to gun laws are often vague.(ABC Radio Perth: Declan Taylor)

Mr Beaton, along with organizations such as the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, the National Firearms Council and the National Farmer’s Federation opposed the changes and raised concerns that the laws appeared to be constantly changing, particularly in Western Australia.

“Police policy changes from day to day and depending on who you ask,” Mr Beaton said.

He said it was often vague and rarely logical.

“‘Police policy is a term that is often used to hide an abuse of the separation of powers,’ he said.

Mr. Beaton said he and all of his employees owned firearms.

He said the public is naïve when it comes to gun ownership and the shooting community.

“It’s not meant to sound demeaning – there’s a lot of stuff we’re all naive about – but the average Western Australian wouldn’t think of guns except when the news is about the illegal use of guns. “, did he declare.

“Similar to sharks – the only time you hear about it is when someone gets bitten, and politicians start talking about nets and drum lines.”

He said gun owners should be considered participants in any other recreational sport.

He said the appearance of guns changed over time for real reasons.

“(It’s) partly the invention of new materials and new machining techniques; partly the tracking of innovation; partly the flow of contemporary aesthetics,” he said.

The outraged shooters

Sporting Shooters Association of Australia WA president Paul Fitzgerald said members had tried to consult with government and police minister Paul Papalia in the hope that any changes to the laws would help prevent crime while keeping sport and recreational shooting.

“Instead of meaningful engagement with our members, responsible gun owners have been unfairly targeted,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

He said his organization promotes the safe use of firearms for people involved in recreational shooting and hunting while ensuring safeguards are in place to protect the wider community.

Mr Beaton noted the findings of the 2014 Senate inquiry that many of Australia’s gun laws and regulations are not evidence-based and not effective.

He said people need to be better informed.

“(We need) to have less politics made by the police, less parasitic politics in politics, a more informed public and a better informed media,” he said.

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