They’re called undetectable firearms. These fully functioning guns often made with resin or plastic using a 3-D printer can be carried through a metal detector and past security without sounding any alarms.
In 2013, Congress acted to extend the ban on such guns by requiring that all firearms contain at least 3.7 ounces of steel so they can be detected by a metal detector. What Congress didn’t do, however, is require that the main components of a gun have to be metal – creating a huge legal loophole that allows people to simply attach a piece of metal to an otherwise fully-plastic gun to meet the law’s requirement.
These metal attachments, which make a plastic gun legal, could be easily removed before someone goes through a security screening – making the gun undetectable, yet likely still fully functional.
To close this loophole, two senior U.S. lawmakers today filed legislation to require that at least one main component in every firearm (i.e. the frame or barrel) be made of metal.
The legislation – filed by U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) – would make it illegal to manufacture or possess a firearm that doesn’t have a central metal component. Unlike an easily-detachable piece of metal, removing one of the gun’s main components prior to a security screening would likely make it inoperable.
“Thanks to advances in technology, anyone with a 3-D printer can simply print a fully-functioning firearm that can be snuck through a metal detector without being noticed,” Nelson said. “Congress acted in 2013 to ban these guns, but a loophole in the law allows people to attach a removable piece of metal to get around that law. These guns pose a real threat to our safety and we need to be doing everything we can to keep them off the streets and out of the hands of those who wish to do harm.”
Nelson and Schumer tried previously to attach similar language aimed at closing the loophole to the bill Congress approved in 2013, but Republicans refused to allow it. The pair tried again in 2015 to pass a bill nearly identical to the measure introduced today, but it too failed.
In August, Transportation Security Administration agents at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport found and confiscated a plastic gun from a passenger’s carry-on bag during screening. The gun, assembled using a 3-D printer, was found loaded with five live .22 caliber bullets.
A copy of the legislation is available here: https://www.billnelson.senate.gov/sites/default/files/3dguns2017.pdf.