On the second morning of MGE2, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, CARICOM, China, Cuba, India, Islamic State of Iran, Iraq, Israel, and Jordan took the floor to make statements. Most of the nations expressed the opinion that the ITI and the PoA are not obsolete; that they are complementary instruments’; and that full implementation would allow states to combat and eradicate illicit trade and manufacture of SALW. However, states also expressed that technological developments related to firearms production could pose risks and inhibit governments’ capabilities to fully meet their obligations under the PoA and the ITI, and called on information and technology sharing and international assistance to help build up governments’ capacities to adequately deal with the problem. Israel noted that existing tools should be reassessed and updated to reflect the development of new technology. Belgium, Iraq and Jordan also called for marking and tracing of ammunition to be taken into consideration.
Belgium, China, India and Israel also suggested possible solutions and recommendations to solve the problems posed by technological advancement in the manufacturing of SALW. India noted that the traditional method of stamping seems still the most cost-effective way to mark weapons and ensure durability, and also asked norms to be adopted on import stamping. Belgium noted that any international standards on marking modular weapons should be simple and easy to follow. Israel recommended licensing the production and export of 3D printers to minimize the risks posed by self-made firearms, while China suggested that states should adopt legislation and administrative measures to combat the problems posed.
The session continued with a presentation by technical experts from Japan, Professor Hideki Kyogoku of the Faculty of Engineering of Kinki University and Akiko Onodera of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The presentation was on Japan’s current situation and experience of 3D technologies. Japan explained that 3D printing has become increasingly popular in the industrial context, and that it has developed AM machines capable of printing metallically. Japan’s government strictly controls the export and usage of 3D printers. However, it is possible for individuals to build 3D printers. Japan believed that the solution to civilians using 3D printers to illegally produce weapons is to raise public awareness through publications and education. Following the presentation, the Chair raised additional points to be considered, specifically methods for weapons identification and data collection and the technologies needed to implement them as well as the roles these methods play in the implementation of the ITI. Suggested methods include utilizing barcodes, biometric technologies and GPS.
Australia, Belgium, Brazil, CARICOM, Islamic State of Iran and Israel raised concerns about the impact that new technologies have on nations’ abilities to combat illicit trade and manufacture of SALW and the resources needed to do so. Belgium explained that 3D printing opens doors for easy production of ammunition. Australia and Brazil believed that 3D printer-produced weapons do not have large negative impacts on safety and security, as the weapons are costly and require advanced technology, with Australia adding that pin guns pose much more risks considering their cost-effectiveness and wide availability, and that modular weapons have affected Australian society already. Iran mentioned that modular weapons have not yet proliferated globally, and that states that possess this technology should shoulder the responsibility of defining associated problems and finding suitable solutions to the risks posed. Israel further stated that self-made firearms through knowledge gained from internet access should be addressed. Professor Kyogoku clarified that there are only two fully functional 3D printers with the ability to print metal objects in Japan so far, both of which are fully under government control. Ms. Onodera added that Japan strictly controls export licenses for 3D printers, and also heavily regulates arms production, so in Japan it is extremely difficult to utilize 3D printers to make weapons. She also added that the Japanese authorities have taken associated risks of 3D printing into account, and is working towards eradicating illegal use of such printers. Despite the fact that 3D printers may still be prohibitively costly to be attractive to criminals to use, Ms. Onodera believed that 3D printed weapons will pose a serious challenge to nations in the future, especially concerning tracing and marking weapons, and thus would like countries to extend considerations towards this topic.
Tuesday’s afternoon sessions saw a presentation by an American technical expert Earl L. Griffith, on behalf of the National Tracing Center, who presented the United States’ experience with regard to marking, tracing, and record-keeping. He explained that in terms of marking, under the U.S. law, commercial manufacturers were required to mark weapons with a serial number, name of manufacturer, city and state of manufacturer, mode (if assigned), and caliber or gauge. According to US law, during importation, in addition to manufacture marking, there must be the name of the importer city and state, as well as the country of origin.
It was a concise presentation explaining process, cost, and recoverability of hand stamping, roll stamping, impressed marking, pin stamping, hand engraving (rotary hand engraving and mechanical hand engraving), and laser etching. Hand stamping was presented as the old fashioned and traditional way, and laser etching as the premier way of marking weapons nowadays. The expert spoke about recoverability of obliterated markings. For markings that were stamped, the US was able to have a rate of 55% full restoration and 85% partial restoration. However, for other methods, such as engraving, there was a less than 5% full restoration. He explained different methods of restoration processes, showing an example of restoration through acid etching. The technical expert also shared information on the US record-keeping system, known as eTrace. This is an advanced system for record-keeping and tracing for the law enforcement community. Not only was the US using eTrace, but it had expanded to over 40,000 individuals representing almost 5800 law enforcement agencies in numerous countries.
Questions were raised by many delegations on the development of polymer and modular weapons, the markings and tracing thereof as well as the technological development of 3D printed weapons. With regard to the marking of polymer weapons, Mr. Griffith clarified that most weapons have a metal insert, and cleared the misconception of an entirely plastic weapon. Markings can be done on the metal component of the polymer weapons, however, the success rate of recoverability of an obliterated marking on a polymer weapon would be extremely low. With regard to modular weapons and the question of over-stamping, the expert mentioned that there are cases of over-stamping, or what is called “clutter marking”. It seems cluttered to the naked eye but there have been successful cases of recoveries. The technical expert shared his experiences in the technological development on 3D printed weapons, as he was part of a group of experts who conducted research and experimented in that field. There has not been a single event of an individual caught printing 3D weapons in the US. He stated that the time and financial costs of 3D printed weapons are extremely high, and that criminals are still more likely to acquire metal weapons on the black market as it is cheaper and more accessible. However, the danger of 3D printed weapons included the possibility of being able to take the weapon though metal detectors. He mentioned that US law does not prohibit individuals to create or assemble their own weapons, and markings on those weapons are recommended, but not required. This raised many concerns and questions on the floor. Concerning marking machines, Sudan states that RECSA provided the state with four machines, but due to the geographical nature of the country, the machines were relocated often and are on the brink of collapsing. The expert suggested hand stamping, once again emphasizing the effectiveness thereof, as it is a cheap method, and the recoverability rate is very high.
Toward the end of the meeting, inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations addressed the floor, including CASA, NATO, Interpol, World Forum on Sports Shooting, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturing Institute, National Firearms Association of Canada, and International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). A summary of the IANSA NGO presentations will be posted on the MGE2 page of IANSA website, and full statements of all NGO presentations can be found at: