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Alberta man charged with 3D printing firearm parts

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WATCH ABOVE: The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) suspects a 53-year-old Picture Butte man of firearm manufacturing, primarily through the use of 3D printers in his home. Eloise Therien has more. – Sep 3, 2020

Editor’s note: On Nov. 19, 2020, the defence in the case said the charges against Dan Forsyth were withdrawn due to his death on Nov. 18.

A 53-year-old Alberta man has been charged for allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts.

The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team said in a media release Thursday morning that it’s believed this is the first time charges have been laid in Alberta in relation to the 3D printing of firearms.

ALERT began its investigation in April 2019, and also involved the assistance of the Lethbridge Police Service and Picture Butte RCMP. The RCMP’s National Weapons Enforcement Support Team was also involved in the investigation.

The investigation led officers to search a home where multiple 3D printers were found. An assortment of manufactured firearm parts were also found in the home and include pistol lower frames, an assault rifle receiver and frame, a bump stock for converting a semi-automatic firearm to fully automatic and silencers.

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Seized items were sent to the RCMP Forensic Science and Identification Services lab for examination and ballistics testing. ALERT said preliminary results confirmed the 3D-printed parts were functional.

Dan Forsyth of Picture Butte, Alta., was arrested on Aug. 18 and charged with the following offences:

  • Offering to traffic firearms
  • Manufacturing a restricted firearm
  • Manufacturing a non-restricted firearm
  • Manufacturing a prohibited device
  • Possession of firearms for the purpose of trafficking
  • Possession of a prohibited device for the purpose of trafficking
  • Unauthorized possession of a non-restricted firearm
  • Unauthorized possession of a restricted firearm
  • Unauthorized possession of a prohibited weapon
  • Unauthorized possession of a prohibited device
  • Possession of a weapon contrary to a prohibition order

ALERT Lethbridge Staff Sgt. Leon Borbandy said the discovery raises concerns over how technological advancements can allow anyone to produce these types of items illegally.

“Unfortunately, the 3D printing allows people to make their own and traffic them, and use them with very little accountability and traceability,” Borbandy explained. “It’s something that can be done in somebody’s living room.”

ALERT said there is currently no tangible evidence to suggest the accused sold any of the items he is suspected of manufacturing, but the investigation is ongoing.

“The strength of collaboration during investigations of illegal movement and criminal use of firearms has once again resulted in a successful outcome, thanks to the efforts of ALERT and the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program’s NWEST,” said Supt. Sue Black with the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program.

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In Fort Macleod, Alta., Alberta Firearms owner Stephen Vandervalk said firearm parts that aren’t legally and professionally manufactured can be extremely dangerous.

He said while the safety of these items is very worrying, their main concern is how public perception of lawful firearms could change if 3D printing continues.

“With people doing these things in their houses, it could potentially affect all rules for all firearms in the entire country,” Vandervalk said in a phone interview. “That’s is something [we’re] very worried about.”

Forsyth is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 7.

Items seized in an investigation in which a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged after allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts.
Items seized in an investigation in which a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged after allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts. Courtesy, ALERT
Items seized in an investigation in which a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged after allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts.
Items seized in an investigation in which a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged after allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts. Courtesy, ALERT
Items seized in an investigation in which a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged after allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts.
Items seized in an investigation in which a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged after allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts. Courtesy, ALERT
Items seized in an investigation in which a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged after allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts.
Items seized in an investigation in which a 53-year-old Alberta man was charged after allegedly using a 3D printer to manufacture firearm parts. Courtesy, ALERT