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Police charge two men with using 3D printers to build handguns in Calgary

So far this year, city police have seized about 15 guns constructed using 3D printing, compared to two in 2020

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Police say they have laid 66 charges against two men after an investigation into a suspected firearms manufacturing and trafficking operation in Calgary.

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In a release, Calgary police say they learned in November 2020 about an individual they believed was trafficking in firearms. As they investigated, they found the suspect had recently purchased a 3D printer and came to believe the individual might be using it to produce firearms.

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In May this year, search warrants were executed in the 2600 block of Dover Ridge Drive S.E. and the 4300 block of Seton Drive S.E. During those searches, police found five 3D-printed Glock-style handguns with magazines, five 3D-printed Glock-style lower receivers, additional gun parts, ammunition and used shell casings, 100 grams of suspected crack cocaine and three 3D printers with accessories.

The printers were in the middle of printing plastic gun parts when police executed the search warrants.

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Staff Sgt. Ben Lawson displays the 3D-printed firearms that were confiscated after 66 charges were filed against two men.
Staff Sgt. Ben Lawson displays the 3D-printed firearms that were confiscated after 66 charges were filed against two men. Dean Pilling/Postmedia

Police say an examination by the forensic firearms and toolmark lab linked a gun seized in May as part of a separate investigation to this manufacturing equipment.

On Aug. 16, police charged Brandon Vincent-Wagner, 24, of Calgary with 10 counts each of firearms manufacturing, possession of firearms or restricted device in an unauthorized place and possession of a firearm in contravention of prohibition order, seven counts of firearms trafficking and one count of money laundering. His next court date is set for Sept. 30.

Also charged was Justin Kumar, 27, of Calgary with seven counts each of trafficking firearms, possession of firearms or restricted device in an unauthorized place, possession of firearms while unauthorized, and careless storage, handling and transportation of a firearm. His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 28.

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In total, 66 charges have been laid as part of this investigation.

Staff Sgt. Ben Lawson with the Calgary police firearms investigative unit said 3D printed firearms are a growing trend that officers are working to address through targeted enforcement.

“3D-printed guns function just like any other firearm and have the potential to cause real danger to our community,” said Lawson.

He said police have seized around 15 guns that were constructed using 3D printing so far this year. That’s up from two seized in 2020.

Lawson said guns, including 3D-printed weapons, could sell for $2,000 to $5,000 each, depending on the local market.

A 3D printer and handguns on display at a Calgary police press conference on Thursday.
A 3D printer and handguns on display at a Calgary police press conference on Thursday. Calgary Police Service photo

He said police have no way of knowing if a gun used in a crime has been 3D-printed unless it is recovered. They function like any other handgun, and there’s no evidence on the shell casings to suggest a gun has been 3D-printed.

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Lawson said it is legal in some countries to 3D-print a firearm, but it is illegal in Canada. However, the information is out there and the files needed to print handguns can be found online. Likewise, he said the price of 3D printers has dropped, with the ones seized costing about $300 on an internet retailer’s website.

He said in this investigation, the only part of the gun that had been printed was the frame or receiver of the gun.

Lawson said other parts were likely ordered online but can be purchased at a gun shop without restrictions.

J.R. Cox, owner of The Shooting Edge firing range and retail store, said legitimate gun retailers aren’t going to supply a large number of parts to people who walk in off the street.

“The parts, they’re not common,” said Cox. “Like most gun stores, we don’t carry Glock replacement parts per se. They’re generally controlled by the manufacturer.”

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Cox said if someone came in wanting to buy a new firing pin, he wouldn’t be concerned. But he wouldn’t sell 20 barrels to a single person.

“If a guy comes in, walking off the street, looking for some completion parts … for a kit, we just don’t entertain it,” said Cox.

He added that parts can be ordered legally from the U.S., and there are Chinese manufacturers making knockoffs. Cox believes it would be too cumbersome to create a registry for every gun part. He feels controls on the frame of the gun are enough.

Doug King, a criminologist at Mount Royal University, said there is already strong legislation under the Criminal Code of Canada that prohibits the manufacturing of firearms or any component.

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“It’s a significant punishment,” he said. “For each count, it’s a maximum of 10 years incarceration. For the first offence, there’s a minimum sentence of three years and then if it’s a subsequent offence, it escalates up to five years.”

King said because the criminals are downloading information to print these guns, it would be almost impossible to legislate rules against that. Likewise, he does not see limits on 3D printers as an answer.

“You can’t prohibit things like people having 3D printers,” said King. “They have an extraordinarily useful purpose outside of criminal activities. It ultimately does come down to really, really good police work.”

Twitter: @brodie_thomas

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