December 3, 2021

House passes firearms bill without addressing 3-D printed guns

Photo - As the expiration of a ban on plastic guns draws nearer, the House voted in favor of a ten-year extension of the law as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pressed for new language directly targeting 3-D printed plastic guns. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)As the expiration of a ban on plastic guns draws nearer, the House voted in favor of a ten-year…

With the national ban on plastic guns set to expire in a matter of days, the House on Tuesday approved a 10-year extension of the ban while Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pressed for a new provision that would directly target 3-D printed plastic guns.

First passed in 1988, the Undetectable Firearms Act banned guns that lacked sufficient metal content to set off metal detectors or be detected by standard airport imaging technology.

The law was extended with bipartisan support in 1998 and 2003, but will expire on Dec. 9, the day the Senate is scheduled to return to session. The House bill extends the existing law for a decade, but Schumer has insisted on adding a provision that would address new technology that makes access to plastic guns easier.

Schumer argues that the rise of 3-D printed guns requires new laws. In particular, 3-D printed plastic guns could have removable metal components that, once removed, would allow the guns to go undetected by standard airport security.

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

But time is running out, and changes to the law risk fracturing the consensus that allowed the bill to be passed by voice vote in the House on Tuesday.

“While we have heard that some want to amend the bill when it arrives in the Senate, I urge our colleagues on the other side of Capitol Hill to quickly enact a clean 10-year reauthorization so that this ban on undetectable weapons will not expire,” said Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., who along with Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., authored the House bill.