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Passenger caught with loaded 3D-printed gun in carry-on luggage

Transportation Security Administration officers at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport thought they had a routine confiscation when they detected a gun in a passenger’s carry-on bag recently. Much to their surprise, however, this gun was not your ordinary gun — it was a 3D-printed replica.

And if that wasn’t surprise enough, the gun also was loaded with live ammunition. As documented on the TSA blog, the firearm was one of 68 guns discovered in carry-on bags during the week ending August 4, 2016.

Transportation Security Administration officers routinely find and confiscate guns stowed in carry-on luggage. These discoveries are often made during the baggage check process and usually are the result of a person forgetting they had used their bag a week ago for target practice. It’s not a big deal as unloaded firearms and ammunition actually are allowed within checked baggage if kept within a locked, hard-sided container. Passengers also have to declare the gun during check-in.

Related: New California law requires all 3D printed guns to be registered

In this case, the outline of a firearm was detected during an X-ray screening of a passenger’s bag. Police were called to the scene and the gun was discovered to be a 3D-printed replica of a .22LR revolver. The gun was loaded with five rounds of ammunition, which were removed during the inspection and confiscation process.

The passenger was given the option to check the 3D-printed firearm and declare it as part of his luggage or leave it behind. According to the TSA, he “elected to leave the item behind with TSA” and continued to his flight. Everything returned to normal and “there was no impact to airport operations.” The TSA also confirmed that the passenger with the 3D printed gun was not arrested or cited for his oversight because the possession of a 3D-printed gun is legal in Nevada.

3D-printed guns made headlines when the first such gun was designed and printed by law student Cody Wilson in 2013. Since that time, 3D-printed guns have grown in popularity and have improved in quality. The most recent weapon is a 3D-printed semi-automatic rifle dubbed the Shuty-MP1. The rapid-fire weapon is comprised mostly of 3D-printed parts with a Glock barrel, metal hammer, firing pins, and other small parts from an existing firearm. Though the creator Derwood says the gun “shoots great,” it does suffer from a fatal flaw that affects most plastic guns. If you fire too many successive rounds (18 in this case), the gun barrel starts to melt and change its shape, making it more of a novelty than a reliable weapon.