By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – Alert Transportation Security Administration employees made a startling discovery at a Nevada airport early Monday morning.

It looked like a real gun, but turned out to be replica that was created from a 3D printer made out of plastic. It even had bullets alongside.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Where the gun was found provided some verification for the fears of law enforcement authorities. It was at an airport security checkpoint at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada.

The guns are not made of metal, which is why authorities are so concerned.

The plans to create a gun from a 3D printer were made available to all on the internet. They were placed there by a Texas man named Cody Wilson several years ago.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“People are saying this is about more than guns. This is about the freedom of information, the regulation of the internet,” Wilson said at the time.

The state department had him take the plans down. But many files had already been downloaded.

Using a laser, 3D printing shapes molten plastic layer-by-layer. They teach classes in it at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Two years ago, CBS4’s Rick Sallinger took a piece of plastic molded by the machine to show what happens when it goes through security. It was not detected. That means airport security is vulnerable to plastic guns.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger taking plastic through a metal detector (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger taking plastic through a metal detector (credit: CBS)

Around the country 68 cases were reported last week in which a firearm was discovered in a bag going through a checkpoint, and 21 of those had a round in the chamber.

Investigators determined the man in Reno did not have any bad intentions so he was not charged. He was given an option to check the item or simply leave it there. It’s not clear why, but he left it behind.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

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