Media Privilege

Trust the British Press to find new depths of sensationalism in the pursuit of profits. The Mail on Sunday have today published a piece that in their minds is an expose of an international security scandal, only they had to break several laws to do it, and will yet again be another example of the media getting away with crimes that would see the rest of us behind bars.

The piece entitled “How Mail On Sunday ‘printed’ first plastic gun in UK using a 3D printer- and then took it on board Eurostar without being stopped in security scandal” shows two reporters with a manufactured version of the Liberator pistol. The Liberator pistol designed by Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed in the US, is the latest in a series of developments from the federally licensed manufacturer to produce a working firearm from a 3D printer. This model fires a single .38 calibre round with the use of an additional metal firing pin, the remaining parts, as demonstrated here, are capable of being produced via a 3D printer.

The Mail on Sunday would have us believe this is a world-wide security scandal, but is it really? Firstly the fact that this entirely “plastic” firearm is completely inoperable without the addition of a metal firing pin and of course ammunition was quickly glossed over, the paper preferring to focus on a working model, one which they did not get passed security, instead identify their recreation as “The pistol, capable of firing a deadly 0.38-calibre bullet”. Without the firing pin and ammunition the two reporters successfully managed to smuggle past security several pieces of plastic which by themselves or combined where no threat to anyone on board the train, and to suggest otherwise is bordering on ridiculous, and the same is true for airports or other secure areas.

Airports for one don’t only utilize metal detectors to detect threats, there are various types of scanners available, such as CT scanners and different search and detection mechanisms, all of which are likely to detect rounds of ammunition, if not the required metal firing pin, without either, the smuggled “weapon” is only a weapon by legal definition.

What the Mail on Sunday has successfully demonstrated here is that there is one rule for the media and one rule for the rest of us. The two reporters have broken numerous laws during this stunt, laws for which the typical working person will be subjected to automatic minimum term prison sentences; for example in breach of Section 5(1)(aba) regarding the possession of short barreled weapons as shown below, section 287 of the criminal justice act 2003 now requires an automatic minimum sentence of 5 years for a person over 21 years of age and between 18 and 21 the sentence requires “detention at a young offenders institution under section 96 PCC(S)A 2000.”

It is an offence under Section 1 of the 1968 Firearms Act to:

“to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, a firearm to which this section applies without holding a firearm certificate in force at the time, or otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate;”

And also to:

“to have in his possession, or to purchase or acquire, any ammunition to which this section applies without holding a firearm certificate in force at the time, or otherwise than as authorised by such a certificate, or in quantities in excess of those so authorised.” (Firearms Act, `968)
It is also an offence under Section 5 of the 1968 Firearms Act if a person has in their possession, purchases or acquires, or manufactures, sells or transfers:

“any firearm which either has a barrel less than 30 centimetres in length or is less than 60 centimetres in length overall, other than an air weapon, a muzzle-loading gun or a firearm designed as signalling apparatus” (Section 5, 1968)

In contrast a serving member of the SAS is now having to face a retrial “despite a last-minute claim that prosecutors acted improperly by consulting on the case” over possession of a pistol and ammunition against the same acts. If rule of law must be applied without consideration for the acts of our special forces, than why should the media be treated leniently when they break the same laws within view of the public, and openly admit to it? (The Guardian, 2013)

Finally whilst unfamiliar with the going rates for black market firearms in the UK, I’d be surprised to hear about any criminal or terrorist paying £1,700 just for a 3D printer, which assuming they have got everything else right may allow them to manufacture a single shot .38 pistol, when presumably there would be a whole host of illegal firearms already available for a lot less.

Firearms Act 1968 Chapter 27 (1968), 30 May 1968 [Online] Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/27 [Accessed 12 May 2013]

Section 5, Firearms Act 1968 Chapter 27 (1968) [Online] Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/27/section/5 [Accessed 12 May 2013]

The Guardian (2013) SAS sniper Danny Nightingale faces retrial over illegally possessing pistol,1 May 2013 [Online] Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/may/01/sas-sniper-retrial-pistol [Accessed 12 May 2013]

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