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'Catastrophic failure' of 3D-printed gun in Oz Police test

Panic on the streets of Sydney, as US says printed guns 'unstoppable'

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The New South Wales Police Force, guardians of Australia's most-populous state, have gotten themselves into a panic over the Liberator, the 3D-printable pistol.

The Force's Commissioner Andrew Schipione today appeared at a press conference to denounce the Liberator and urge residents of the State not to download plans for the gun.

Schipione offered this advice after the Force's ballistics team acquired a 3D printer, downloaded plans for the Liberator and assembled a pair of the pistols.

One, when fired into a resin block said to simulate human flesh, is said to have penetrated to a depth of 17 fatal-injury-inducing centimetres.

The other experienced “catastrophic failure”, as we predicted a couple of weeks ago.

Here's the Force's video, complete with shots of the Liberator firing, and falling apart. The good stuff starts at about the 44 second mark.

Watch Video

That failure didn't stop Schipione declaring the Liberator a threat to public safety.

To understand why, you need to know that NSW has of late experienced gun violence at rather unusual levels by Australian standards (which means over a year all of Sydney had about half an episode's worth of gun violence on The Wire). That spate of shootings has led to Operation UNIFICATION, an effort kicking off this weekend that encourages Australians to rat out strike a blow for public safety by informing Police about illegal guns.

Pointing out the deadly menace of guns that arrive in Australia by internet, can't be spotted by metal detectors and are assembled in back yards fits nicely with that narrative. And a public safety warning about an unsafe device is always welcome.

But the decision to talk about the Liberator in such a public forum is also a little odd, as the weapon has not had a lot of exposure beyond Australia's technology press. On a slow Friday, chances are it'll be on the television news tonight.

Here in Vulture South we'd also love to know if the Force downloaded the plans before or after the US State Department asked they be removed from the web on May 9th. The files promptly made it to BitTorrent, a network with lots of legitimate uses but also a tool it must be fun to get working inside a Police firewall.

Whatever the timeline and intentions behind the warning, Fox News reports the US Department of Homeland Security has issued a bulletin to other law enforcement agencies declaring the Liberator “impossible” to stop and a source of “public safety risks”. ®

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