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The Role of Online Communities in Supporting 3D-Printed Firearms

On 9 October 2019, Stephen Balliet, a 27-year-old German neo-Nazi, shot to death two people and injured another two near a synagogue in the city of Halle, Germany. Law enforcement agencies revealed that “some non-essential parts of the firearms were produced with a 3D-printer.”

On 9 October 2019, Stephen Balliet, a 27-year-old German neo-Nazi, shot to death two people and injured another two near a synagogue in the city of Halle, Germany. Law enforcement agencies revealed that “some non-essential parts of the firearms were produced with a 3D-printer.” The Halle shooting constituted the first use of partially 3D-printed guns in a terrorist attack, shedding a light on the disruptive potential of this technology. The case of Balliet is still unique. However, multiple violent actors, ranging from jihadi groups like Hamas to far-right organisations such as the Atomwaffen Division, are expressing their interest in this cutting-edge technology.

Since 2019, numerous individuals have been arrested and convicted in different countries for attempting to print 3D weapons. Furthermore, the monitoring of extremists’ online activity is showing an even broader interest of malevolent actors in 3D-printing. In April 2020, the FBI revealed that numerous members of the Boogaloo movement acquired 3D-printed plastic components of automated rifles from an online site. Some weeks after, extremist posts with guidelines and links on 3D-printing of weapons were published on 8Kun. In January 2021, in the aftermath of the 6 January storming of the US Capitol, a white supremacist Telegram channel provided information on 3D-printed guns. In April 2021, the Spanish police stormed an illegal workshop and sized numerous 3D-printed weapons, including an assault rifle. Finally, this summer, two British citizens linked to the extreme right have been convicted for the potential terrorist use of 3D-printing.

Read more at the Global Network on Extremism & Technology

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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