Undetectable Gun Ban Renewal Passes House, But Dems Want Metal-Part 'Loophole' Closed

WASHINGTON -- The House quietly passed a 10-year extension of the current law banning undetectable guns on a voice vote with just a handful of lawmakers on the floor today.

But some Democrats protested that the ban will need to be even broader to require metal parts that cannot be removed in plastic guns to ensure they can't slip through a "loophole" and slip through airport security.

The current law, which passed in 1988, bans guns that can’t be spotted by metal detectors. With its provisions about to sunset on Dec. 9, Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) pulled together an extension bill to cover guns that can't be spotted on airport imaging technology.

“This ban on undetectable weapons has been in effect since 1988,” said Coble, 82, who is retiring next year. “And from all indications, the law is working well. This law has a sunset clause and has been reauthorized two previous times. If we do not extend this law again, the ban will expire on December 9, 2013. I hope the Senate will expedite this bill when it returns to work next week.”

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) tried to push a reauthorization on their way out the door for the Thanksgiving break, but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) blocked their attempt as the last GOP on the floor.

Schumer and Blumenthal argued that reauthorization is needed quickly because of the rapid development of technology in which a 3-D printer can be used to piece together a plastic gun.

“Nothing about this simple and common-sense legislation requires even a moment’s delay or debate,” Blumenthal said.

“Hidden, undetectable firearms serve no purpose other than to make it easier for criminals to take lives. That is why both houses of Congress unanimously approved reauthorization of the law in 2003,” he said. “Delaying these protections simply puts innocent American lives at risk. We need to stop playing politics with public safety and extend these protections immediately.”

While acknowledging that the bill would likely eventually pass, Sessions told Schumer “this is not a good day” for the legislation. The Dem sponsors tried to bring up the reauthorization just after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dropped the nuclear option to push through President Obama's nominees.

The original law makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm that is not as detectable by walk-through metal detection, or any firearm with major components that do not generate an accurate image before standard airport imaging technology.

“The fact that today’s reauthorization passed by voice vote proves that there is overwhelming bipartisan support for this law," Coble said. "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.”

Those enhancements, though, came from the House as well with a Republican other than Coble on board.

Israel introduced his Undetectable Firearms Modernization Act with Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), which would require that certain major components of plastic firearms are made of non-removable detectable metal.

Israel said today he was a lead co-sponsor on the reauthorization with Coble "because I believe it is an essential first step in keeping Americans safe from the threat of plastic guns."

"However, I don’t believe a straight reauthorization of the current law goes far enough, which is why today I introduced legislation that would close a dangerous loophole that exists in the current law by requiring plastic guns to be made with certain non-removable metal parts so they can be detected by metal detectors," he added.