A US man has admitted he broke the law when he used 3D printers to make components converting semi-automatic guns to full auto.
Kent Edward Newhouse, 41, a convicted felon of Jacksonville, Mississippi, pleaded guilty [PDF] to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of engaging in business as a manufacturer of firearms. He had made and sold auto sears, which can be used to upgrade legal semi-automatic weapons to unlawful fully automatic ones.
Newhouse now faces up to 15 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine for each count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, as well as up to 10 years and $250,000 for illegally building and selling guns.
According to court documents [PDF], an informant notified the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in April that Newhouse was attempting to 3D print and manufacture auto sears for Glock pistols.
Just months later, in July, Newhouse told the ATF informant he had manufactured several auto sears designed for AR-style pistols and rifles, and that he wanted to sell the devices. And to prove it, the convicted felon sent over four videos showing him shooting two different fully automatic machine guns, according to the criminal complaint.
At this point, the Feds stepped in to set up a sting operation. On July 8, the confidential source met Newhouse and recorded him talking about the auto sears he wanted to sell. We’re told the informant also “personally observed” a fully automatic AR pistol, four drop-in auto sears for AR-style weapons, and two pistols.
A couple of days later, a meeting was arranged at Newhouse’s home to purchase four auto sears for $400.
“During this purchase, Newhouse sold the confidential source an AR-style pistol with an auto sear attached and two additional auto sears for the total cost of $1,800,” according to the court documents. “These items were then recovered by the ATF.”
Now detained and charged, Newhouse will be sentenced on December 2.
“The use of 3D printers to unlawfully manufacture firearms, and to make devices to convert semi-automatic firearms into machine guns, poses a real and current threat to our communities,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Kurt Thielhorn said in a statement today.
On August 24 this year, an ATF rule targeting these types of home-made weapons took effect. It’s intended to tackle “ghost guns” — firearms that are assembled from kits or manufacturers using 3D printers, do not contain serial numbers and are sold without background checks, making it difficult for law enforcement to trace and easy for criminals to access.
US law enforcement recovered about 20,000 ghost guns last year alone, according to the White House. Unsurprisingly, 3D printed weapons, like all types of illicit products, are also bought and sold on dark-web marketplaces.
“Considering that 3D printing is becoming more widespread and more advanced, we anticipate that these weapons will continue to increase in numbers and sophistication,” Cybersixgill security researcher Adi Bleih noted. “And the built-in anonymity of the dark web provides the perfect venue for anyone to acquire a ghost gun, or to obtain the information needed to build one.” ®