House extends ban on non-metal guns

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The House on Tuesday quickly approved legislation that would extend a ban the manufacture, sale or other trafficking in non-metal firearms that can evade metal detection.

By a voice vote, members passed the bill to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act for another 10 years.

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The original law was passed in 1988, and has been renewed twice since then. Without reauthorization by Congress, the law will expire next week, on Dec. 9.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), said the law has had "overwhelming bipartisan support" in the past. However, he was the only Republican to speak on the bill, and the voice-vote approval prevented a detailed examination of how many Republicans opposed the bill.

Democrats supported the extension as well, but argued that Congress should be looking to update the law to take into account new technology that allows plastic weapons and weapon parts to be produced on 3D printers. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said the law needs to be amended to ensure all critical gun parts contain at least some metal, so they can be detected.

"Under the statue, someone may produce a plastic firearms which is detectable only because it has a metal component, which is not essential for the operation of the firearm, but is easily removable by the firearm user seeking to avoid detection," he said.

Scott proposed a bill from Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who has proposed that all essential gun parts be required to include some metal component. Scott also said that while Democrats would support the bill, they still want to see Congress work on legislation to improve the law in this way.

"While I support the reauthorization of the Undetectable Firearms Act for 10 years, a 10-year extension should not be interpreted as an agreement that the statute should remain unchanged for that entire term," he said.

Rep. Israel agreed that extending the law for 10 years is better than nothing at this point.

"In our view, this bill is not perfect," Israel said. "I'd have preferred to modernize the Undetectable Firearms Act, to eliminate some loopholes in the law by requiring that certain metal components be permanent, or not easily removed.

"But frankly, I believe that even a loophole in a law is better than no loophole at all. A loophole can be closed down the line."

On Monday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the House will was not good enough, and said he would look to pass legislation in the Senate next week that is similar to Israel's proposal.

But timing seems to be working against the Senate. Senators return on Dec. 9, the same day current law expires. That means even if the Senate can act that day, it would set up more work between the House and Senate on this issue.

After the House vote, Rep. Tom Massie (R-Ky.) said the bill passed with just 10 members on the floor, and said he was the only "no" vote on the floor at the time.