With one week left before the Undetectable Firearms Act expires, the House of Representatives plans to reauthorize the law Tuesday for another 10 years.
Renewed twice since 1988, the federal law bans firearms that go unnoticed by a metal detector and requires them to be shaped like a gun. However, the law by itself does not fully address the threat of plastic guns made from 3D printers, because a loophole permits some plastic guns even if the small metal piece that triggers detectors is removable. One legal model lets owners carry firearms with a removable nail that would not be picked up by metal detectors and X-Ray machines.
The House bill would simply reauthorize the act without closing this loophole. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) and House Democrats wanted a version that goes further with specific provisions for 3D printed guns, like requiring an unremovable piece of metal in the gun. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) also would like a version that ensures more metal is used in manufacturing the guns. “The House bill is better than nothing, but it’s not good enough,” Schumer said, according to USA Today. The National Rifle Association has reportedly stayed quiet on Schumer’s proposal.
If the simple reauthorization passes both the House and Senate in the next week, it would be the first gun legislation passed this year, despite calls for reform after school shootings. Given Congress’ split stance on gun violence, it is highly unlikely it will try to revisit 3D loophole after the act is reauthorized.
3D printing is still an expensive technology limited to industrial and commercial settings, but that won’t always be true. Once considered a theoretical issue, now printers can manufacturer plastic bullets as well as guns capable of firing 50 rounds. Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security have warned against widespread 3D printed guns, admitting the immense challenge posed to law enforcement.
Philadelphia recently became the first city to ban 3D guns, since the city doesn’t expect Congress to act anytime soon.
By voice vote, the House approved the 10-year extension of the Undetectable Firearms Act.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) tweeted that he was the only “no”: