In the summer of 2016, Transportation Security Administration screeners at Reno Tahoe International Airport in Nevada confiscated an oddity: a 3-D-printed handgun in a man’s carry-on baggage. The plastic gun was inoperable but accompanied by five .22-caliber bullets. The passenger said he had forgotten about the gun and willingly left it at the airport and board his flight without being arrest.
Polymers from digital files
Since the world’s first functional 3-D-printed firearm was design in 2013; so such guns have increasingly been in the news. Proponents of the firearms 3-D-printed with polymers from digital files maintain that sharing blueprints and printing the guns are protect activities under the First and Second Amendments. Opponents argue the guns are concerning because they are undetectable and also untraceable since they have no serial numbers.
Tackling some of those forensic unknowns are a University of Mississippi chemistry professor and a graduate student. Their research is developing analytical methods to explore; so how the firearms might be traced using chemical fingerprints rather than relying on physical evidence; hence with the goal of offering tools for law enforcement to track the guns as they become more widespread.
The three-year, $150,000 grant, “Physical and Chemical Trace Evidence from 3-D-Printed Firearms,” has resulted in a 2017 peer-reviewed paper in Forensic Chemistry; so a growing reference library of mass spectra from 3-D-printed firearms for use by law enforcement and a book, Forensic Analysis of Gunshot Residue, 3-D-Printed Firearms, and Gunshot Injuries: Current Research and Future Perspectives.
bachelor’s degree in forensic
The pair’s research arises from an undergraduate chemistry class Cizdziel taught in 2014; so Introduction to Instrumental Analysis. Before earning his bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry in 2015, Black; so who also was an undergraduate researcher in Cizdziel’s laboratory, took the class, where talk soon turn to 3-D-printed firearms.
They discuss how developing new reliable analytical methods for forensic practitioners; so dealing with trace evidence from 3-D-printed guns would make a good doctoral research project,” Cizdziel said. “Apparently this sparked a fire in (Black), and he not only joined my research group as a graduate student but was award a research fellowship from the Department of Justice to do that very project.
Beyond work on the reference library, the twosome is examining DNA methods; hence on 3-D-printed firearms and studying the longevity of polymer evidence under weathering conditions. Cizdziel and Black also are working on a paper; so that presents all their scientific discoveries when it comes to 3-D-printed firearms. Not knowing what they might find in their investigations has led to some exciting findings and groundbreaking work, Cizdziel said.