Guns from the 3D Printer
The Shadowy, Homemade Weapons Community Just Keeps on Growing
The right-wing extremist attacker from Halle had numerous homemade weapons with him on his shooting spree. But their quality was poor. Others, though, are perfecting the reliability of 3D-printed weapons - and have moved on to rocket launchers.
A man dressed in combat gear is standing in a sparsely furnished room, his face covered by a balaclava and eyes hidden behind mirrored sunglasses. In his hands is a submachine gun, and he pulls out the magazine and jams it back in, over and over again to the beat of the techno music overlaying the video. He then fires off several rounds to prove that this weapon – apparently produced by the 3D printer standing next to him – is fully functional.
DER SPIEGEL 41/2021
The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 41/2021 (October 8th, 2021) of DER SPIEGEL.
To his fans, this man is a pioneer and innovator – a kind of Elon Musk of firearms. On the web, his fans know him by his screen name JStark – as the leader of the largest 3D weapons community. In internal chats, his acolytes have referred to him as the "daddy" of the community and many see him as a hero. His voice in the video makes him sound young, and he speaks fluent, slightly accented English, clearly enjoying his role as trailblazer. As a kind of phantom who is only interested in defending his ideals, a man battling for the disenfranchised and prepared to take up arms against the state if necessary. "Even if there had to be a lot of bloodshed to maintain the right to bear arms, I would still do it," he said in an interview with DER SPIEGEL last year. Today, though, he is no longer alive.
The attacker from Halle also watched a weapons-construction tutorial from JStark and his accomplices on the internet. Saturday saw the observation of the second anniversary of that attack, in which a 27-year-old right-wing extremist sought to storm the synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur and kill as many Jews as possible. When he failed to force his way inside the building, he shot at random passersby, killing two and injuring several more. The attacker used homemade weapons in the attack, and was also carrying one with parts from a 3D printer. His stated goal was that of proving the reliability of such firearms and motivating others to build them as well.
The Halle attacker in court in 2020: He brought along an arsenal of homemade weapons on his shooting spree.
Ronny Hartmann / dpa
For years, a largely uncontrollable market for homemade and 3D-printed weapons has been developing rapidly, almost completely off the public’s radar – pushed forward with video tutorials and detailed instructions. It is nothing short of a nightmare for security officials: The development of increasingly robust materials and the growing interconnectedness of the online community are making it easier and easier for criminals to obtain weapons.
JStark was a key figure in this scene. He developed the submachine gun from the video clip together with an accomplice – a weapon that is said to be far superior to all previous 3D-printed firearms in both precision and reliability. The 9 mm weapon weighs 2.1 kilograms and instructions for building it can be obtained with just a few clicks on the web. From there, all you need is a cheap 3D printer and a quick trip to a DIY store or a couple of purchases on a platform like Ebay – and you can produce your very own, deadly automatic weapon at home.