A Japanese court has jailed a man for two years for making guns with a 3D printer, in what is believed to be a first in a nation with strict gun controls. Yoshitomo Imura, 28, was found guilty of making two guns at his home and publishing a video online detailing the process. The judge held that criminal responsibility for this act is serious as it can encourage others to replicate the act. The rapid development of 3D printing technology that allows relatively cheap machines to construct complex physical objects by building up layers of polymer has proved a challenge for legislators worldwide. Weapons assembled from parts produced by the printers aren’t detectable with regular equipment, including scanners at airports, leading to fears that they can be used in hijackings.
The debate over homemade guns took off last year in the United States when a Texas-based group, Defence Distributed, posted blueprints for a fully functional 3D-printed firearm: a single-shot pistol made almost entirely out of hard polymer plastic. India has no law at present to handle the menace. It is time the Indian authorities reviewed the arms control regulation as India is particularly venerable to acts of terrorism perpetrated through the use of non-metal weapons which cannot be detected by metal detectors.
It is known that the advancement of technology is a double-edged weapon. However, it is the criminal elements or innovative individuals like Imura who appear to stay one step ahead of the law-enforcing agencies presumably because the latter are more hidebound than the enterprising freebooters. Governments have no option, therefore, but to keep up with the evolving trends in technology by recruiting bright young scientists and technologists. The emphasis so far has been on cyber warfare. But, as the latest incident shows, undetectable weapons can also play a part in creating mayhem. Travelling will become safe only when detectors will emit a shrill “beep” on encountering a polymer gun.