House votes to extend ban on plastic guns; Senate is expected to follow suit


With the advent of 3-D printers capable of producing plastic weapons, the House voted on Tuesday to renew a 25-year-old prohibition against firearms that can evade metal detectors and X-ray machines. (Jay Janner/AP)
December 3, 2013

The House approved a bill Tuesday that would extend a ban on manufacturing plastic firearms that are not detectable by security-screening devices, the first federal gun legislation approved since the school massacre in Connecticut nearly a year ago.

The Senate is likely to join the House in approving a 10-year extension of the ban on plastic guns when it returns from a legislative break next week. But some supporters continued to argue for more specific language that would outlaw the use of 3-D printers to manufacture weapons that can evade metal detectors.

Extending the plastic-gun ban, first imposed in 1988 but set to expire Dec. 9, is the one firearms issue on which Republicans and Democrats found common ground this year during months of debate and discussion after last December’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The only other efforts at federal gun legislation this year — including proposals to strengthen background checks on gun purchases and to ban military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazines — failed in the Senate in April.

The National Rifle Association, which mounted a strong campaign against more-stringent background checks in the spring, remained silent on the issue of extending the ban on plastic guns.

Many Republicans viewed the issue of banning such guns as a law-and-order measure that would keep weapons out of criminals’ hands. “From all indications, the law is working well,” Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), the main sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement.

House Democrats supported the plan — which was approved on a voice vote with no roll call taken — but Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he will also introduce a bill that would try to tackle emerging technologies that make it easier to produce weapons that are easy to conceal.

According to Schumer and gun experts, 3-D printers are of great concern because they can be used to make a gun that would be considered legal even if the only metal piece was detachable.

Once that piece was removed, someone could sneak the weapon into an airport or other secure area and reattach the metal piece to create a functioning weapon.

“The House bill is better than nothing, but it’s not good enough,” Schumer said in a statement before the House voted.

Paul Kane covers Congress and politics for the Washington Post.
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