A 27-year-old man who allegedly made handguns with a 3-D printer was arrested Thursday on suspicion of illegal weapons possession, the first time Japan's firearms control law has been applied to the possession of guns made by this method.
The suspect, Yoshitomo Imura, an employee of Shonan Institute of Technology in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, had the plastic guns at his home in Kawasaki in mid-April, the police said. No bullets have been found.
The police launched an investigation earlier this year after Imura posted video footage online of the guns, which he claimed to have produced himself, along with blueprints for them, according to investigative sources.
One of Imura's postings carried the comment, "The right to bear firearms is a basic human right."
Police searched Imura's home last month and seized five guns, two of which can fire real bullets, the sources said.
Imura, who purchased a 3-D printer for around ¥60,000 on the Internet, was quoted as telling investigators during the search, "I produced the guns, but I didn't think it was illegal."
"I can't complain about the arrest if the police regard them as real guns," he reportedly said.
They believe Imura downloaded blueprints for the guns from overseas websites.
Expected to cut manufacturing costs in industry, the printers also are capable of producing firearms. A U.S. gun maker announced last year it had succeeded in firing real bullets using a gun produced by a 3-D printer.
Security authorities around the world are on alert because designs are easily accessible on the Internet for such guns, which cannot be spotted by metal detectors if they are made of resin.