Plastic gun made with 3-D printer is seized from carry-on luggage at Nevada airport

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 9:52am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 9:57pm

Airport screening agents confiscated a plastic handgun produced with a 3-D printer from a man’s carry-on luggage last week at a Nevada airport in what a federal official said Wednesday might have been the first discovery of its kind in the US.

A report by Reno-Tahoe International Airport police said the white gun was a “replica” that couldn’t fire. However, it was loaded with five .22-calibre bullets.

“Whether it’s a replica or not, it’s not allowed,” Transportation Security Administration Agency spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said, noting that people in the airplane cabin might not be able to distinguish a real gun from a replica.

The bullets were detected on a luggage scanner, according to the police report obtained Wednesday.

The passenger was identified as Frederick Vandeman, 64, who told police he was a medical doctor who owns a 3-D printer and wanted to show his work to colleagues. He also said he had flown with the gun from Indiana and forgot it was in his bag.

Vandeman, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, declined to comment.

He chose to leave the gun and ammunition behind at the Reno airport and was allowed to continue travelling, Dankers said. He wasn’t charged with a crime.

Vandeman could face a fine up to US$7,500, “depending on the circumstance,” Dankers said. Such a process would be administrative, not public.

The police report said the early morning American Airlines flight on August 4 was bound for Dallas-Fort Worth. It said the FBI was contacted to interview Vandeman at his final destination in Memphis, Tennessee.

An FBI spokeswoman in Las Vegas referred questions to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

ATF spokeswoman Helen Dunkel in San Francisco called the case an open investigation, but said she had no immediate information that she could report.

Dankers said she couldn’t be sure if any other 3-D plastic guns had been found at other airports but noted that her inquires didn’t immediately find any cases.

Across the US, the TSA screens more than 2.1 million passengers a day.

Using 3-D printing and materials ranging from plastics to food products, designers have replicated jewellery, fancy chocolate confections, sunglasses, shoes and even a child’s hand.

Dankers said firearms are always prohibited in carry-on baggage along with ammunition and firearm parts. But all those items can be transported in checked baggage, as long as the traveller declares them to the airline during check-in, she said.