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Sale of 3D printing kits on dark web for handguns has experts worried

Dark web experts are concerned about the emergence of 3D printing kits that allow criminals to make untraceable handguns at home.

A report by Australian National University researchers, prepared for the Australian Institute of Criminology, has listed DIY handgun patterns and kits as the next trend to watch as dark web vendors look to sell weapons devoid of the unique serial numbers required legally manufactured firearm frames.

“We were surprised how much self-help material there is available,” Professor Roderic Broadhurst from the ANU Cybercrime Observatory said.

“There is a kit available for cutting frames for weapons. It is like selling a pattern for a dress; you can then make the main piece of the firearm using 3D printing but without the unique serial numbers required on legally manufactured firearm frames.”

According to professor Broadhurst, the discovery of mixed metal and plastic 3D printing components and kits is also alarming as it will make the production of firearms easier and cheaper.

“3D printing is getting better, and we are definitely seeing a higher class of products; it used to be thought plastic would be too brittle, but they are using harder plastics,” Professor Broadhurst said.

“It’s like standing on a piece of Lego – these pieces will not break.”

The ANU study tracked dark web markets between July and December 2019 and found 2,124 weapons for sale.

Of those, there were 1,497 handguns, 219 rifles, 41 submachine guns, and 34 shotguns.

The most common categories were handguns (70.5 percent), followed by rifles (10.3 percent), ammunition (3.7 percent), submachine guns (1.9 percent), explosives (1.7 percent), shotguns (1.6 percent), and accessories (1.1 percent).

Alongside decommissioning military weapons and ammunition, there were also fake weapon advertisements by law enforcement agencies.

Professor Broadhurst said the access Australians had to a variety of untraceable ‘ghost guns’ was concerning.

Conventional handguns are most popular on the dark web, with vendors offering stealth packaging to Australia.

Glock semi-automatic pistols, a handgun manufactured in Austria, comprised 57 percent of all guns sold.

“There are lots of Glocks available. Professor Roderic Broadhurst said that they are the standard law enforcement sidearm, and you see them in action movies,” professor Roderic Broadhurst said.

“They are trendy, slick, and popular with gangsters and law enforcement. We think they are popular on the dark web because they can be stripped down to their parts and sent through the post in pieces.

“The prices of these Glocks are roughly the same price as the offline equivalent, but they are not registered, or their serial numbers have been wiped off; it theoretically makes them untraceable.”

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