December 10, 2013

Congress renews ban on undetectable, plastic guns

Republicans, however, block an effort to strengthen the ban by requiring that such weapons contain nondetachable metal parts.

By Alan Fram
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

2013 Associated Press File Photo Cody Wilson holds what he calls a Liberator pistol that was completely made on a 3-D-printer at his home in Austin, Texas. Congress is extending a ban on plastic firearms that can slip past airport and school metal detectors and X-ray machines.

Plastic guns were in their infancy when President Ronald Reagan and Congress first enacted the ban against undetectable firearms, and when it was renewed in 1998 and 2003. But such weapons have become a growing threat and can now be produced by 3-D printers, which are becoming better and more affordable.

Supporters of tightening the rules say the 10-year renewal helps the gun lobby because it reduces Democrats' ability to revisit the issue.

The Sandy Hook killings prompted Obama and Democrats to make gun control a top domestic priority this year — but to no avail in Congress.

Their most stinging loss occurred in April, when the Senate turned aside an effort to expand federal background checks for would-be gun purchasers, an effort to prevent criminals and mentally ill people from getting weapons. That measure would have required the checks for all sales at gun shows and online — expanding a system that is currently required only for sales through licensed firearms dealers.

Also defeated were proposed bans on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

In a measure of GOP opposition and NRA clout, those proposals never even came to votes in the Republican-majority House.

But with Saturday's Newtown anniversary approaching, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., a psychologist, plans to announce legislation Thursday aimed at boosting federal mental health programs, including treatment, research and training for workers who respond to emergencies.

The lack of movement in the Democratic-led Senate has left gun-control groups divided about their 2014 goals.

Some are willing to set aside, for now, the push for expanded background checks and settle for more modest changes. These could include strengthening mental health programs and having states provide more records to the federal background check system.

Backing this approach are some Newtown families and the group Americans for Responsible Solutions, formed by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., seriously wounded by a shooter, and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly.

Others want to continue raising pressure on lawmakers to back strong background check requirements, and they oppose aiming for less.

These groups include Mayors Against Illegal Guns, led by outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an organization that has been spending money against gun-rights congressional candidates and lawmakers. These groups are concerned that Republicans would use votes for weaker efforts to cast themselves as having championed major steps against guns.

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