It’s not the first time.
So far in 2020, the Transportation Security Administration confiscated at least a couple of 3D-printed guns.
Officials found the contraband in a passenger’s carry-on bag at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Feb. 20, according to a blog post highlighting several banned items that TSA officers collected between Feb. 10 and Feb. 23. The post notes that in that same time period, the officials found 161 firearms—145 of which were loaded and 62 had a round chambered.
TSA in 2016 shared a similar “week in review” post indicating that it had confiscated one 3D-printed firearm, and in August 2018 the agency reported that its employees caught 3D-printed guns and accessories at airport security checkpoints “at least four times” since 2016.
Agency officials could not immediately provide a hard number for how many 3D-printed guns were collected across all U.S. airports in 2019 or the early months of 2020, but a spokesperson told Nextgov that “travelers with 3D-printed firearms at the checkpoint will face criminal referrals to local law enforcement, as well as civil penalties imposed by TSA.” According to the agency’s policy, 3D-printed guns—just like standard, realistic replica and novelty firearms—can be transported in checked baggage only in accordance with federal regulations. TSA also expects travelers to comply with laws concerning possession of firearms as they vary by local, state and international governments, the official said.
Though firearms produced by 3D printers don’t always look like traditionally manufactured guns, the spokesperson emphasized that TSA officers are also “trained to look for and detect threats—including artfully concealed weapons.”
“Through the use of sophisticated technology, including body scanners used to screen passengers in the security checkpoint, they can detect nonmetallic items concealed on a passenger,” the official said.
The debate over whether the blueprints used to create 3D-printed guns should be accessible to the public has been going on for years in court. Though 20 states are jointly fighting to keep such files inaccessible, new rules set by the Trump administration would transfer the regulation of these weapons from the State Department to the Commerce Department. Some critics argue that the change in policy would increase the online availability of the designs.