Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of a report examining the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) monitoring of 3-D firearm printing technology. While ATF does not have statutory authority to regulate the methods used to manufacture firearms, either by individuals or by federally licensed manufacturers, it is responsible for enforcing federal laws addressing the illegal sale, possession, and use of firearms, including firearms produced using 3-D printing technology.
ATF reports that only a limited number of 3-D printed firearms have been used in crimes. However, the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that ATF does not have standardized procedures to identify and evaluate 3-D printed firearms, or guidance to ensure it is proactively monitoring this evolving technology. In fact, ATF told the OIG that they have not identified 3-D printing of firearms as a priority area to monitor. As a result, ATF lacks the dedicated monitoring protocols and channels of communication that would be necessary to collect and share information about 3-D printed firearms, thereby increasing the risk of ATF being unaware of technological advances and increased accessibility of 3-D printed firearms. The OIG believes ATF can readily take additional action to respond effectively to the challenges posed by capabilities of this advancing technology.
Today’s report makes four recommendations pertaining to ATF assessment of 3-D printed firearm technology, its communication and collaboration strategy, and its data collection. ATF concurred with all the recommendations.