House reauthorizes ban on undetectable, plastic guns

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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A bipartisan majority in the House voted to extend a bill banning plastic guns or other guns that would not be detectable in a metal detector or x-ray machine on Tuesday.

The Undetectable Firearms Act, first passed in 1988 and renewed since, is set to expire on December 9. The act prohibits the manufacture, sale, or possession of firearms that do not contain enough metal to render them detectable by metal detectors and hence could be brought into airports or other secure places.

The bill required a two-thirds majority to pass, and it passed easily by voice vote.

Debate over the law has taken on a new dimension this year in light of the rise of 3-dimensional printers, which can be used to create a plastic gun. A group posted instructions for how to do so online earlier this year. Some proponents of the law have said it needs to be updated in order to account for the new technology.

Still, Democrats said that the House bill is a good start.

“This, for now, is a very good step,” said New York Rep. Steve Israel, speaking Tuesday on the House floor shortly before the voice vote. Israel was among those who had been pushing to include limits on 3-D printed weapons in the bill, and he said that he would still have “liked to close that loophole” in the Undetectable Firearms Act. Israel said that adjustment could be made later on.

New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who along with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida and Patrick Leahy of Vermont pushed for such language in the extension, had a similar take.

“The House bill is better than nothing, but it’s not good enough,” Schumer said Monday, The Hill reported.

Schumer said that he was looking at adding another provision to the law — banning guns that have removable metal parts, allowing them to be taken through security checkpoints and reassembled.

“We absolutely must close the loophole that allows anyone to legally make a gun that could be rendered invisible by the easy removal of its metal part,” he said.

“Under current law it is legal to make a plastic gun so long as it has some metal in it, even if it is easily removable,” he explained. “The bill we’ll try to pass in the Senate would fix that.”

Gun rights groups have had mixed reactions to the law.

The National Rifle Association’s political arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, issued a statement Tuesday saying that it did not object to reauthorizing the law as it currently stands — as the House did Tuesday — but that it did take great issue with Schumer’s proposed additions to the law.

“The NRA strongly opposes ANY expansion of the Undetectable Firearms Act, including applying the UFA to magazines, gun parts, or the development of new technologies,” the statement says. “The NRA has been working for months to thwart expansion of the UFA by Senator Chuck Schumer and others. We will continue to aggressively fight any expansion of the UFA or any other proposal that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation sent a letter of support for reauthorizing the law in its current form.

The National Association of Gun Owners, on the other hand, said it strongly opposes renewing the Undetectable Firearms Act all together, describing it as a “needless infringement” that threatens “to become a vehicle for the anti-gun lobby.”

“We’re deeply concerned that the most draconian provisions would be added in the Senate or Conference Committee. If not, the President could still side-step Congress by issuing more unconstitutional anti-gun Executive Actions and regulations based on just the renewal alone,” said Danielle Thompson, NAGR Press Secretary, in a statement provided to The Daily Caller.

The Senate is out of session and does not return until December 9, the day that the Undetectable Firearms Act would expire. Though the law could be reauthorized after expiration, the timeline puts pressure on Senate Democrats to take up and pass the House bill as is, rather than risk a prolonged back and forth by trying to extend it.

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