The only gun violence bill that the House of Representatives and Senate passed this year is the Undetectable Firearms Act, a 25-year-old law that tackles a single issue by banning firearms that go unnoticed by a metal detector. It expired at midnight on Monday, and the Senate approved a 10-year reauthorization by voice vote Monday night after the House passed the bill by voice vote last week.
The act requires 3D-printed plastic firearms to contain a small amount of metal, but it carries a loophole that still lets some plastic guns escape screening. For instance, one legal 3D model only requires a small metal nail that can be easily removed.
Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposed a stricter version that would require undetatchable metal parts, but Republicans refused the measure. The reauthorization keeps the loophole intact, and follows the National Rifle’s Association recommendation against restricting homemade plastic guns. “The NRA strongly opposes ANY expansion of the Undetectable Firearms Act, including applying the UFA to magazines, gun parts, or the development of new technologies,” an NRA statement on H.R. 3626 said last week. “The NRA has been working for months to thwart expansion of the UFA by Senator Chuck Schumer and others.”
Though Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice officials warn of 3D printing’s security threats, it is still a relatively expensive process limited to commercial and industrial settings. It can cost upwards of $100,000 to print a 3D gun.
While homemade guns is no longer science fiction, the human toll is much higher from guns acquired through a weak background check and licensing systems. States with weaker gun laws see twice as much gun violence as states with the strongest measures against gun violence. One in three people in the U.S. know someone who has been shot with a firearm, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Gun reform proponents have advocated for federal law that patches the holes of weak state laws.
Following tragedies at Sandy Hook elementary school and a Colorado movie theater, the Senate finally considered gun violence legislation this spring. However, the Senate failed to pass a single reform. The NRA lobbied against a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks to online sales and gun shows, which received 54 votes out of the 60 needed.