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House Votes to Extend Plastic Gun Ban

2:10 PM, Dec 3, 2013   |    comments
This hand gun was created from resin with 3-D printer technology. Federal agents say plastic weapons created on a 3-D printer could emerge as a national security threat.(Photo: DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE)
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Susan Davis, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON--The U.S. House approved Tuesday a 10-year extension of an existing federal law banning guns that can go undetected by metal detectors and X-ray machines.

The measure passed on an overwhelming bipartisan vote despite reservations from Democrats who would like to expand the scope of the law to address concerns about 3-D printing technology, which can produce solid objects out of digital models--including firearms--and did not exist commercially when the law was first enacted. Without significant opposition, the House did not record members' votes on the bill.

"As a practical matter it looks like the choice before the country and the Congress is whether to let this ban on the plastics expire or not. It should not expire," said Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., who acknowledged that an effort by Senate Democrats to expand the restriction is unlikely to overcome GOP opposition. "There's lots of things we'd do if majority ruled, and (Democrats) were the majority here, but we're going to have to practice the art of the possible and pass the best law we can."

The 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act was enacted under President Reagan and reauthorized under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. It is scheduled to sunset Dec. 9, the same day the Senate returns from a two-week Thanksgiving break. If the law expires, Congress can fix it retroactively.

The law bans the manufacture, possession and sale of firearms that can't be detected by metal detectors and requires handguns be manufactured in the shape of a gun so they can be screened on X-ray machines.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is among a group of Senate Democrats seeking to amend the law to require that metal has to be permanently attached to the gun, closing what they call a loophole that would allows removable metal parts. Senate Democrats are less likely to support a lengthy extension of the law if the amendment is not included in order to revisit the gun debate sooner than in ten years.

The law is the only gun legislation to get a vote in the U.S. House this year. The Senate tried and failed in April to move a bill to expand background checks in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last December, but it could not overcome a GOP filibuster.

'The House has done nothing in the nearly one year since the Newtown tragedy, I'm very disappointed in that," Andrews said, adding that if House Democrats were to win a majority in the 2014 midterm elections, they would revisit the gun debate. "There will be sensible legislation on many fronts," he said.

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