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What Is the Undetectable Firearms Act?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A federal law barring plastic and ceramic guns is set to lapse in less than a week, and its absence may create a law enforcement nightmare.

On December 9, Congress will vote on extending the Undetectable Firearms Act, a law that has been on the books for more than 25 years. It prohibits guns that can pass unnoticed through a metal detector, reports The New York Times.

What might keep this law from being renewed?

Two Decades of Gun Tech Since Bill Was Passed

The Undetectable Firearms Act was signed into law in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, and it has been extended twice, reports the Times.

When the law was initially passed, technology like 3D-printed weapons was speculative or prohibitively expensive. Today, the blueprints for a functional 3D-printed firearm have been making the rounds on the Internet.

With the changes in technology over the last 25 years, the fight in Congress now comes down to amending the law to specifically include these 3D-printed firearms or renewing the law as it is.

According to the Times, some lawmakers like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, say they're flabbergasted that anyone would "oppose a piece of legislation ... so connected with our safety" and allow undetectable guns to, in effect, be legalized.

Some Fear Back Door to Gun Regulation

Although gun owners have made significant strides in the past year, with all 50 states now allowing some form of firearms-carrying in public, some still fear government control over gun ownership.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican, spoke prior to the Senate's Thanksgiving recess about the fear of "using the law as a backdoor way" to introduce new gun regulations when the Act expires again, reports the Times.

Others are simply skeptical that any provisions need to be made for 3D-printing technology. Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, points out that the 3D printers capable of making a working firearm are "not going to be in Kinko's."

Still more opponents point out that measures intended to thwart terrorists -- like the controversial full-body scanners at airports -- can already detect something like a plastic firearm.

Congress will have to weigh these safety concerns and those of gun owners before the Undetectable Firearms Act expires on Monday.

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