House to vote on extension of ban on plastic weapons

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 2, 2013 

The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on Tuesday on a bill sponsored by Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., that would extend a ban on firearms that can slip past metal detectors and airport screeners.

The measure would ban the sale and possession of plastic weapons that now can be made cheaply with 3D printing technology.

But the legislation allows licensed manufacturers to use 3D printing to make prototypes, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., said in a recent letter to the House Judiciary Committee.

The foundation is a trade group for the firearms and ammunition industry. It urged Congress to reauthorize the Undetectable Firearms Act for 10 years, as Coble’s bill would do.

Congress first passed the law in 1988. Coble said in a prepared speech he’ll give on Tuesday that that the bill makes it illegal to “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive” any firearm that can’t be detected in metal detectors or that has major components that don’t generate an accurate image on airport screening machines.

Congress last renewed the law in 2003, and if it isn’t reauthorized again now it will sunset on Dec. 9.

The bill will need a two-thirds majority to pass. Some Democrats reportedly think the bill doesn’t go far enough and may vote against it. At the same time, Gun Owners of America also opposed it and was busy on Monday lobbying lawmakers and briefing Capitol Hill staffers.

Erich Pratt, spokesman for the pro-gun group, said it opposed reauthorization of the law because “the Constitution shall not be infringed. We have a higher law, the Second Amendment."

He also said the law wouldn’t do any good because the technology already existed to make plastic weapons.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement on Monday that the House bill was "better than nothing, but it isn't good enough." Schumer said it was necessary to close a loophole that allows guns to be made out of plastic as long as they have some metal in them, even if it's an easily removable part.

Schumer said the Senate would try to pass a bill to extend the law and removed the loophole.

Before Thanksgiving, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate accused each other of playing politics over the measure. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., introduced legislation in the Senate on Nov. 21, just before the Senate left on a two-week break. Other senators objected, and no vote was taken.

“It doesn’t meet the common-sense test to only reauthorize an extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act for a short year," Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. "Congressional Republicans support a lengthy extension of the ban on firearms that cannot be picked up by metal detectors," he said, noting that in the past the extensions have been bipartisan and non-controversial.

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