Nova Scotia

N.S. RCMP investigate origins of 3D-printed firearm after shooting incident

Nova Scotia RCMP say a person was shot with a firearm earlier this week that was created by a 3D printer. 

Police tracing source of weapon made in part with polymer printing

Police say this weapon was created in part with a 3D printer. They're investigating how it ended up in a garage in East Preston, N.S. (RCMP)

RCMP are investigating the origins of a 3D-printed firearm seized after a shooting earlier this week in Nova Scotia.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Guillaume Tremblay said there have been past seizures of 3D-printed firearms in Canada, but it's not a common occurrence.

Police say that on the night of Oct. 23, a woman called 911 after being shot at a home in East Preston, N.S. The RCMP and Halifax Regional Police investigated. 

The woman, 20, was treated at hospital. 

"RCMP officers learned that the woman was in a garage on the property, when she heard a loud bang and suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds," Tremblay said. 

"RCMP officers secured the garage, detained four individuals present and arrested a 20-year-old Dartmouth man for obstructing a police officer. All parties were later released without charges."

Police searched the property the next day and say they found a 3D-printed firearm and ammunition. Police think the weapon was fired by accident. 

Mix of off-the-shelf and 3D printing

Mike Fanning owns Novacad System, a 3D printing company in Burnside, N.S. He said the photo police released appears to show a "hybrid" weapon, with some parts possibly coming from a 3D polymer printer and some parts perhaps from a 3D metal printer. 

Fanning said many key parts appear to be made from off-the-shelf metal tubes, casings, bolts and screws. That includes the chamber from where the bullet was fired.

"From the photo it looks like maybe the buttstock and pistol grip and other external components away from all the heat and combustion, certainly those plastic components are easily printed on a 3D printer," he said. "Dangerous? Absolutely."

Police are investigating after a woman was shot with a 3D printed firearm. They believe the shooting was accidental, but manufacturing 3D printed firearms is a criminal offence. We ask the owner of a 3D printing company about these kinds of guns and where they might originate.

Metal printers cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said, and are mostly confined to university research labs. He doesn't know of any private ones in Atlantic Canada. 

A business like his would not print anything like the plastic components seen in the photo, he said. 

Trembley confirmed to CBC News that the barrel is made of metal and some of the weapon is polymer. The RCMP officer said most printed weapons contain off-the-shelf parts. The frame is often printed, and that still falls under the Criminal Code offence of making a firearm. 

He said police expect to charge one person with firearms offences. It's illegal to make a gun in Canada without proper licensing, regardless of the technology, and it's also illegal to have any firearm you're not licensed to own.

Trembley said the RCMP are seeking tips from the public surrounding the origins of the weapon.

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