The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 9, 2013

Congress ready to extend ban on plastic firearms

By Alan Fram
The Associated Press

— WASHINGTON - A Senate vote to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms capable of evading metal detectors and X-ray machines is shaping up as a bittersweet moment for gun control supporters, days before the anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Monday's vote to extend the prohibition on plastic guns for another decade responds to a growing threat from steadily improving 3-D printers that can produce such weapons. But gun control advocates seem sure to lose an effort to impose additional, tougher restrictions on plastic firearms - a harsh reminder of their failure to enact any new federal gun curbs in the year since 20 first-graders and six educators were murdered in Newtown, Conn.

The slayings last Dec. 14 prompted the newly re-elected President Barack Obama to push gun control to the top of his domestic agenda. But Congress approved nothing, and gun control advocates face the same uphill struggle in 2014, complicated by internal divisions over what their next step should be.

"The gun lobby still has enormous power in Washington - more, frankly, than I thought they still had," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who represented Newtown last year while in the House.

Illustrating the roadblocks that have thwarted gun control forces, an effort by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to make plastic guns more detectable by requiring them to have a permanent metal part seems certain to fail Monday. His plan is opposed by Republicans and the National Rifle Association.

The Senate is then expected to easily approve a 10-year extension of the ban, which would otherwise expire Tuesday.

Schumer and other Democrats, as well as gun-control advocates and law enforcement officials, say there's a problem with current law on plastic guns: It lets gun makers meet its requirements by including a metal part that can be easily detached - thus letting the weapon evade screening devices.

In a statement last week, the NRA expressed no opposition to renewing the law. But the gun lobby said it would fight any expanded requirements, including Schumer's "or any other proposal that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights" to bear arms.