Plastic kills: Congress must update the undetectable guns law

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Next Monday, Dec. 9 one of America’s safeguards against illicit weapons will expire. The Undetectable Firearms Act, which has been renewed by Congress twice with bipartisan support since it was first enacted in 1993, bans plastic guns that metal detectors and X-ray machines cannot detect.

It is a sensible and necessary response to the threat of gun violence in an era of terrorism, youth gangs and mass shootings.

Today, with the arrival of 3-D printers, such elusive weapons can be more easily made. But the language of the act does not account for the proliferation of these homemade plastic firearms, which is why many in Congress want to update the language of the law instead of simply extending it for 10 years. Democrats believe the 3-D printer guns should be singled out as a threat, but Republicans disagree.

Police across the country agree that the present law creates opportunities for criminals, terrorists and gang members to use guns that can elude detection. They, too, want a ban specifically on 3-D gun printing because of the growing use of the technology that makes these stealth weapons possible.

The National Rifle Association, which spends heavily to influence votes in Congress, has yet to signal its position on extending the Undetectable Firearms Act, and that may account for the reluctance of some lawmakers to speak out on renewal.

Nevertheless, the deadline to maintain the protection of the law is approaching. Democrats and Republicans must continue to safeguard Americans against guns, including those from 3-D printers, that are expressly designed to escape detection.

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