A 28-year-old Japanese man was sentenced to two years in prison for using a 3D printer to manufacture several plastic guns. His sentencing marks the first time Japan has convicted anyone for the possession and manufacture of a weapon using 3D printing technology.
Yoshitomo Imura, an ex-staff member at the Shonan Institute of Technology in Fijisawa, was arrested on May 8 after admitting to making the weapons. A police search of his apartment turned up two 3D-printed handguns deemed capable of seriously injuring and killing someone. The guns were modeled after a blueprint downloaded from a U.S.-based website.
According to a police report obtained by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Imura made the weapons because of Japan's extremely restrictive gun laws.
“I thought guns are necessary for physically weak people to protect themselves," he said. " So, I thought that I would make the guns myself."
Japan’s Firearm and Sword Possession Control Law makes it illegal for citizens to hold a handgun, much less own one. The strict regulations have been instrumental in Japan's extremely low fatality rate (in 2006, only two people were shot to death). Not all firearms are banned; hunting and sporting rifles are permitted, though they require extensive certification.
On Monday, Yokohama District Judge Koji Inaba sentenced Imura to two years, ruling that he was trying to "emasculate” Japan’s gun control laws. "He intended to demonstrate that firearms could be manufactured easily and publicize the fact widely over the Internet," Inaba said.
This characterization of Imura, if true, aligns with the philosophy espoused by Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed, the organization he founded with the intent of designing the world's first firearm composed entirely of 3D-printed components. Wilson, a self-described crypto-anarchist, has been at the forefront of the 3D-printed gun movement and believes in "the Napsterization of the world," a reference to a society unbound by governments.
"We want to prove to society that you don't live in a world where you can't have guns," Wilson told the Daily Dot in 2013. "We also don't think that this is the final stage of civic and social organization. People can't even begin to imagine what's next.”
Imura plans to appeal the decision.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.