June 9, 2015

TSA CAN’T SPOT ORDINARY GUNS. SO WHAT’S THE RESPONSE? The Hill: Dems move to ban plastic guns.

Congressional Democrats are proposing to ban plastic guns following reports of major security lapses at the nation’s airports

Plastic guns that fire real bullets can be even more dangerous as traditional firearms, because they’re harder to detect, says Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).

The Undectectable Firearms Modernization Act, backed by Israel and several other Democrats, would prohibit the manufacture of entirely plastic guns. The legislation would require a major component of every gun to contain enough traces of metal to be detected.

Israel plans to unveil the legislation Tuesday during a press conference at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, where he will draw a connection between his bill and recent high-profile airport security lapses.

The Transportation Security Administration failed a recent sting operation in which undercover agents snuck fake explosives and weapons through airport security in 67 out of 70 tests, or about 95 percent of the time.

Many of America’s busiest airports failed the tests.

In one test, a federal agent was able to sneak a fake bomb that was strapped to his back through security, even after he was subjected to a pat down.

The massive security failure led to the ouster last week of TSA acting administrator Melvin Carraway.

In light of the TSA security lapses, Israel and other Democrats say it is even more important to ban plastic guns.

They’re choosing this response so that they can claim they’re doing something while not imperiling the unionized, Democrat-voting jobs of incompetent federal employees.

Related: My piece on 3D-printed guns in Popular Mechanics.

The Liberator can be identified at security checkpoints because it contains a chunk of metal—in fact, that component’s only function is to set off metal detectors. This is required by a federal statute, renewed late last year, that bans guns that are undetectable. (Wilson’s gun was a prominent talking point in discussions of the bill.) Nonetheless, it would be possible for someone to manufacture a 3D-printed plastic gun that lacked that part. Such a gun would violate the law, and it wouldn’t be caught by a metal detector.

Well, actually, it probably would. That’s because while the gun might be all-plastic, the ammunition contains metal. Popular Mechanics researchers contacted the TSA, the FBI, and several ammunition and metal-detector companies trying to find out just how much metal it takes to set off an alarm at airport security. No one would cite a figure, but the sensitivity thresholds on the machines are set high enough (to avoid false alarms over zippers or metal buttons) that a single cartridge wouldn’t do it. A magazine containing, say, eight or more cartridges probably would.

And, of course, metal detectors aren’t the last word. In airports, at least, they’re kind of obsolete these days. More modern detectors, such as backscatter-X-ray or millimeter-wave-radar imagers—which look beneath people’s clothes—would detect a plastic gun regardless. So, for that matter, would a simple pat-down.

Well, assuming it were performed competently, which seems as if it’s not to be taken for granted. That — TSA incompetence — is the real problem, and the Democrats are just trying to distract from that. That’s the real story about this bill.

Related: Terror Links Found to 73 Workers in Secure U.S. Airport Jobs. “Investigators found 73 people were cleared by the Transportation Security Administration to work in sensitive jobs at U.S. airports despite possible links to terrorism in their backgrounds, according to a government report made public on Monday.”

Banning plastic guns won’t fix that either. But the Dems in Congress hope it may at least distract from it.

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