WASHINGTON – The House is expected to vote this week on renewing a 25-year-old law that bans the production of undetectable guns, in an age when new technology could open the door to at-home production of plastic weapons.
The law itself is set to expire on Dec. 9, and lawmakers are divided on whether to renew it.
The measure to renew it, sponsored by Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., would prohibit the manufacture of plastic weapons, which can’t be detected when going through security at airports and other metal detectors. There has been growing concern over the emergence of 3D printing, which can now create some operable plastic guns and other weapons.
The House was originally set to vote late Monday on the bill, but Coble had trouble catching a flight back to Washington -- so the House is expected to handle the bill on Tuesday. The bill will need a two-thirds majority to pass the House.
Last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., as well as other Republicans, blocked the Senate from considering the renewal. The bill in the Senate was brought up by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Bill Nelson of Florida and Patrick Leahy, of Vermont.
The Undetectable Firearms Act, which was first enacted in 1988 and reauthorized in 2003, makes it illegal to “manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer or receive” any firearm that’s undetectable by metal detectors and X-ray machines.
The National Rifle Association has not publicly stated where it stands on the proposed extension. Gun Owners of America, a smaller gun rights group, told The New York Times that the extension is unnecessary because 3D printing technology is not widely available.
“They’re not going to be in Kinkos,” Larry Pratt, the group's executive director, told the newspaper. “And at the moment, they can’t fire that many rounds. It’s just not something that we’re going to be dealing with anytime soon.”
Schumer, however, has said the technology of 3D printing has advanced to the point anyone with $1,000 and an Internet connection can access the plastic parts that can be fitted into a gun. Those firearms can't be detected by metal detectors or X-ray machines.
The senator says that means anyone can download a gun cheaply, then take the weapons anywhere, including high-security areas.
More than 100,000 copies of plans for the world's first 3D-printed handgun, The Liberator, were downloaded in May before the State Department told the Texas-based nonprofit behind the firearm to stop sharing the file.
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.