Journalists print gun, point it at Netanyahu

Journalists print gun, point it at Netanyahu

Plastic ‘wiki weapon’ can be created at home, defeats metal detectors; PM’s office calls reporters irresponsible

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A handgun that can be manufactured with a 3D printer (photo credit: CC BY-ND Electric-Eye, Flickr)
A handgun that can be manufactured with a 3D printer (photo credit: CC BY-ND Electric-Eye, Flickr)

Reporters managed to smuggle a home-made plastic gun into the Knesset with little difficulty, and pulled it out only meters away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The correspondents from Channel 10’s nightly culture and technology program “Tzinor Layla” printed the gun using instructions downloaded from the Internet on a three-dimensional printer.

Investigative reporters from the program went through all the Knesset security checks with the gun in their possession. They brought it first to a meeting in the office of the Knesset’s internal affairs committee chairman Miri Regev.

On a second occasion, the program’s reporter, Uri Even, brought the gun into a Knesset ceremony featuring Netanyahu, where he sat less than 10 rows away from the prime minister. When Netanyahu rose to speak, Even took out the gun without the barrel attached, held it close to his lap, and even pointed it toward the prime minister.

When they first printed the gun, the reporters fired it at an indoor range. Fearing it would explode, they set the plastic weapon up in a vise and pulled the trigger from behind a door using a string. The barrel exploded, but the bullet did hit the cardboard target.

Knesset Guard Sergeant-at Arms Brig.Gen. Yossi Grif admitted the new technology “presents an entirely novel challenge to all the security systems in Israel and in the world.” He added that “the Knesset, like all government offices and public institutions, is currently investigating the issue in order to provide a professional solution as soon as possible.”

The plans came from the American start-up Defense Distributor, founded by Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old libertarian law student at the University of Texas. He uploaded the plans for his .308 caliber Liberator pistol onto the site on May 5. The homemade “wiki weapon” is made of 16 melted polymer parts, and the Defense Distributor site includes clips on how to assemble it.

The only non-printable component is the firing pin, a regular metal nail available from a hardware store.

Forbes magazine reported that within three days of the release of the blueprints for the gun in May, they were downloaded around 100,000 times.

According to Channel 10, there are hundreds of domestic 3D printers in Israel, which could potentially produce unlimited numbers of the guns. 3D printers are available on Israeli sites for as low as NIS 7,294 ($2,000). The plastic raw material costs only several hundred shekels more.

The Prime Minister’s Office, speaking for the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), criticized the stunt, calling it “an irresponsible act that could have endangered those who carried out the dubious ‘journalistic mission’ and could have caused them serious harm.”

American officials are no more enamored with the weapon.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer called it “stomach-churning.” Rep. Steve Israel said, “Security checkpoints, background checks and gun regulations will do little good if criminals can print plastic firearms at home and bring those firearms through metal detectors with no one the wiser… Now that this technology is proven, we need to act now.”

They both called for an update to the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act, banning guns that get through airport metal detectors, to cover printable gun magazines.

On May 9, the US Department of State ordered Defense Distributed to remove the download links from its site, but they are still accessible from other sites.

“I recognize that the tool might be used to harm other people,” said Wilson, the creator of the plans. “That’s what it is. It’s a gun. But, again, I don’t think that’s a reason to not do it. “

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