The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 4, 2013

House votes to renew all-plastic gun ban

Use of 3-D printers to manufacture guns prompts lawmakers’ heightened attention

WASHINGTON — With the advent of 3-D printers capable of producing plastic weapons, the House voted Tuesday to renew a 25-year-old prohibition against firearms that can evade metal detectors and X-ray machines.

A bipartisan bill extending the Undetectable Firearms Act was passed on a voice vote, a first for gun legislation since last year’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.

The Senate is expected to act on the legislation when it returns from a two-week Thanksgiving recess next Monday, a day before the current law expires.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he and others will try then to add a new requirement that at least one component of the firing mechanism contain enough metal to be detectable in a magnetometer and also be undetachable. But with the National Rifle Association opposed to any change in the statute and many Democrats eager to avoid a new fight over gun controls going into an election year, the Senate is more likely to just pass the House version unamended. The House bill only requires that a plastic gun have some piece of metal in or on it, but it can be removable and doesn’t have to be used to fire the weapon.

“The House bill is better than nothing, but not by much,” Schumer said Tuesday. “... It’s certainly not enough.”

Schumber said plastic guns were “the thing of science fiction” when the ban was first passed in 1988 but such weapons are now a worrisome reality.

Brian Malte, a director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said his group’s worries about the availability of plastic guns are “no reason to hold up renewal.”

The use of 3-D printers to manufacture guns received heightened attention in May when Cody Wilson, then a University of Texas law student, posted blueprints online for using the printers to make the Liberator pistol, which he says he designed. Wilson, founder of Defense Distributed, a nonprofit that advocates the free distribution of information on 3-D printed weapons, was ordered by the State Department to take down the instructions after two days because of allegedly violating arms export controls, he said.

By then, the plans had already been downloaded more than 100,000 times and they remain available on file-sharing websites, he said.

“If you want to do this, it’s plainly obvious there’s no one standing between you, your computer and your 3-D printer. Anyone can make this gun,” Wilson said Monday.

Lawmakers and law enforcement officials alike have long been concerned that technological advances could allow for the production of guns that don’t have any metal, first passing the ban on such weapons in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. It has been renewed twice since then.

Today 3-D printers can spray repeated, thin layers of plastic or other materials to create objects from toys to automobile parts to medical devices. They are being used increasingly by companies, researchers and hobbyists, and the technology is constantly improving.

But printing a gun isn’t cheap. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 3-D printers can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $500,000, though they can be rented. A traditional handgun can cost far less.

It’s also unclear how effective such a gun can be.

ATF tested two plastic guns from different plastics earlier this year, and one of the weapons exploded when it was fired. The second one shot off eight rounds before ATF stopped the test.

Among the chief concerns from law enforcement and lawmakers has been that a 3-D printed gun, made of plastic or other materials, could be easily slipped through metal detectors at a courthouse or other such facilities.

New technologies being used at airports, including back-scatter X-ray machines, are designed to detect non-metallic anomalies, such as liquids and potentially plastic guns.

While the NRA didn’t oppose extending the current law, it has opposed expanding it, including applying the law “to magazines, gun parts or the development of new technologies.”

“We will continue to aggressively fight any expansion ... or any other proposal that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said in a statement.

The conservative Gun Owners of America has opposed even the extension, saying such laws wouldn’t stop criminals intent on printing weapons.

“They’ve just spent all year trying to effectively destroy the gun lobby,” Mike Hammond, legislative counsel of the small group, said of Democrats. “So why in heaven’s name, given this intransigence, should we give them this Christmas present?”

President Barack Obama and a host of lawmakers led by Schumer and other Democrats have repeatedly pushed for changes to the nation’s gun laws, including expanding background checks for gun buyers and other restrictions, since a shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Dec. 14. Twenty children and six adults were killed in a shooting carried out by a lone gunman who then shot himself to death.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Study: Fist bumps less germy than handshakes

    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps.

    July 28, 2014

  • Obama Exporting Pollu_time.jpg ‘Not in my backyard’: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad

    As  the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.
    This fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine President Barack Obama’s strategy for reducing the gases blamed for climate change and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem. The contribution of this exported pollution to global warming is not something the administration wants to measure, or even talk about.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S.: Russia fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.
    The images, which came from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and could not be independently verified by The Associated Press, show blast marks where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

    July 28, 2014

  • Plan to simplify health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.
    Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.
    If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they’ll owe the tax man later.

    July 28, 2014

  • W.Va. Judge: WVU, IMG College deal is OK

    A judge has denied a motion by West Virginia Radio Corp. to toss the media rights contract between West Virginia University and IMG College.
    Media outlets report Monongalia County business court circuit judge Thomas Evans set aside a motion for summary judgment against WVU and others.
    West Virginia Radio was seeking to void any contract entered by WVU and IMG. West Virginia Radio unsuccessfully bid on the contract, then filed a motion for summary judgment in February, claiming school officials violated state procurement laws.
    Evans ruled the code cited by the plaintiffs didn’t apply to the $86.5 million, 12-year agreement reached last year.

    July 28, 2014

  • Powerful storms rip through eastern U.S.

    Powerful storms raking across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday have destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, and there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Lawmakers say Obama too aloof with Congress

    President Barack Obama’s request for billions of dollars to deal with migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House — six years in — still doesn’t get it when it comes to working with Congress.

    July 27, 2014

  • U.S. faces intelligence hurdles in downing of airliner

    A series of unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shows the limits of U.S. intelligence gathering even when it is intensely focused, as it has been in Ukraine since Russia seized Crimea in March.

    July 27, 2014

  • House approves bill to boost child tax credit for some

    More families with higher incomes could claim the popular child tax credit under a bill that won approval Friday in the House. But in a dispute that divides Republicans and Democrats, millions of the poorest low-income families would still lose the credit in 2018, when enhancements championed by President Barack Obama are set to expire.

    July 26, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads