Spanish law enforcement revealed the details of a raid on an illegal 3D-printed gun manufacturing workshop on Sunday, the first of its kind found in Spain.
According to a press release from the Spanish National Police, the raid originally occurred on September 14th of last year on the island of Tenerife, but was ordered to be kept under wraps by the investigating court. The alleged owner of the factory—an unnamed Spanish male—was also arrested.
Video footage of the raid posted on the official Twitter account of the National Police appears to show a 3D printer still in the process of printing the frame of a firearm. It also shows an officer disassembling a 3-D printed pistol and a table filled with various parts, firearms, and accessories.
In total, Spanish law enforcement reported finding, among other things, two 3D printers, 19 printed handgun frames, nine magazines, various weapon parts, as well as weapons: a carbine with a scope, five knives, a machete, and a katana were all recovered. Furthermore, they found 30 manuals containing instructions on how to 3D print firearms and create home-made explosives, along with chemicals commonly used to manufacture them, such as nitrate.
Police also found two flags and a gun holster featuring neo-Nazi symbols.
In a press release, law enforcement pointed to 3D printing technology as potentially enabling deadly crimes, citing a 2019 terrorist attack on a synagogue in Germany by a far-right neo-Nazi where the shooter used a 3D printed gun and had manufactured several more.
"Additive manufacturing—known as tridimensional printing in 3D—is a disruptive technology that exponentially increases the danger of proliferation of firearms, facilitating access to criminal or terrorist groups," police wrote. "In October 2019, in Germany, there was a terrorist attack against a jewish synagogue, in which other than weapons and explosives, a rifle made with a 3D printer was used."
According to Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, police said that the man arrested by police was a soldier originally from Venezuela who had also previously lived in the United States for ten years, where he had been a frequent visitor of shooting ranges.
While 3D-printing firearms is illegal in Europe, the practice remains in a bit of a legal limbo in the United States. It is legal federally to 3D print firearms, but they must contain some metal components so that they can’t evade metal detectors, for example, and the question of whether or not it is legal to share blueprints online is a seemingly never-ending battle. However, some states have taken measures to disrupt the use and spread of these weapons. California passed a law requiring that 3D firearm makers apply for a serial number (and pass a background check), for example.
Despite all this, as the raid in Spain shows, the ready availability of materials, instructions, and equipment make policing 3D guns a difficult task.