NSW bans possession of blueprints for 3D printing firearms

Upper house backs bill banning possession of files for 3D printing firearms
A 'Liberator' pistol 3D printed by NSW Police in 2013.

A 'Liberator' pistol 3D printed by NSW Police in 2013.

Possessing files that can be used to 3D print firearms will soon be illegal in New South Wales after new legislation, passed last week by state parliament, comes into effect.

Among the provisions of the Firearms and Weapons Prohibition Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 (PDF) is an amendment to the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 stating that a person "must not possess a digital blueprint for the manufacture of a firearm on a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine."

The maximum penalty is 14 years' jail.

The provision does not apply to any person with a licence to manufacture firearms or the police.

'Possession' is defined as "possession of a computer or data storage device holding or containing the blueprint or of a document in which the blueprint is recorded" or "control of the blueprint held in a computer that is in the possession of another person (whether the computer is in this jurisdiction or outside this jurisdiction)".

Defences for the offence include innocent production, dissemination or possession; public benefit (such as enforcing or administering a state or federal law); or approved research. reported on the bill's passage.

The bill, introduced to the NSW Legislative Assembly in October, was passed by the Legislative Council on 17 November and is now waiting royal assent.

The provisions "are targeted at criminals who think they can steal or modify firearms or manufacture firearms from 3D blueprints," NSW's justice minister, Troy Grant, said when introducing the bill in the state's lower house on 27 October.

"Those who think they can skirt the law will find themselves facing some of the toughest penalties for firearms offences in this country," Grant said.

In 2013 the NSW Police issued a warning about the potential of 3D printed firearms to catastrophically misfire.

The police revealed that they had created and tested two 3D-printed firearms based on the the Liberator pistol blueprints produced by US-firm Defense Distributed.

A federal parliamentary inquiry earlier this year recommended the federal and state governments look into uniform regulations covering 3D printing of firearms.

However in a dissenting report, Coalition senators and Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm argued that existing laws were adequate for dealing with the issue.