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Locked and Loaded: American Far-Right’s Growing Interest in Homemade Firearms

As firearms are heavily regulated in Europe, discussions regarding improvised or homemade weapons have been consistent for several years in the European far-right online ecosystem. Comparatively, the process of purchasing firearms in the United States has historically been very simple. However, since the election of President Biden in 2020, it appears that fear of gun control measures has caused the far-right community of the United States to explore how to acquire and utilize improvised or manufactured weapons.

While the fear of gun control has been ever-present in the broader conservative discourse, the election of President Biden and the recent rise of mass shootings in the United States have increased concerns. Far-right actors have even developed a conspiracy theory suggesting that the Biden administration has been responsible for the recent mass shooting to convince the public that more significant gun control measures are necessary. Ultimately far-right actors have expressed a fear that this increased focus on gun control will result in a government gun confiscation campaign. As a result, many far-right actors have begun to discuss methods for acquiring alternative or improvised weapons online. Monitoring of communications between far-right actors suggests that they are primarily discussing utilizing improvised firearms under two primary themes: (i) creating unregistered 3D printed firearms, (ii) manufacturing makeshift ammunition.

In the past, European far-right actors have advocated for the use of, and ultimately utilized, improvised weapons to carry out individual-initiative (“lone wolf”) attacks, such as the 2019 shooting attack at a synagogue in Halle, Germany. Embracing innovations and new technological advancements have historically allowed terrorists and other extremist actors to avoid detection and execute high-impact kinetic attacks. While improvised firearms and weapons are not theoretically new, interest in them has reached a new level of prominence since the 2020 election. This significantly increased interest in the production and use of untraceable firearms could be signaling a shift in the attack strategy utilized by far-right actors in the United States. Decision-makers and security forces must be cognizant of this evolving attack strategy and implement plans to counter it. Failure to recognize and appropriately respond to this shift may allow future attacks with homemade weapons to occur.

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