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Extending plastic gun ban just first step?

Opponents fear what Senate might do

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Gun rights groups are rallying to try to stop any extension of a federal law to ban undetectable plastic guns, saying that if the House GOP passes something then Senate Democrats will turn it into a broader gun control push.

Congress is racing a Dec. 9 deadline when the existing ban expires. The House was slated to vote Monday night but put it off until Tuesday to accommodate bill sponsor Rep. Howard Coble, a North Carolina Republican whose flight back to the capital was canceled Monday.

Mr. Coble's legislation would extend the existing ban, first enacted in 1988, which makes it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy, or sell any firearm that is not detectable by metal detector and/or does not present an accurate image when put through an X-ray machine.

But with the rise of 3-D printers, some lawmakers want to go further.

"The House bill is better than nothing, but it's not good enough. We absolutely must close the loophole that allows anyone to legally make a gun that could be rendered invisible by the easy removal of its metal part," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who is leading the push to pass legislation in the Senate. "Under current law it is legal to make a plastic gun so long as it has some metal in it, even if it is easily removable. The bill we'll try to pass in the Senate would fix that."

Mr. Schumer's plan, though, has gun rights groups warning House Republicans not to pass anything at all.

Dudley Brown, executive vice president of the National Association for Gun Rights, sent an email to supporters Monday urging them to tell their members of Congress to vote against the House GOP proposal, saying such a vote is "for more gun control and less freedom."

He said the Obama administration would "use it as an excuse to outlaw as many firearm components as possible — even wooden stocks."

Gun Owners of America (GOA) also took a shot at the law, saying it didn't trust President Obama with new powers.

"The poorly drafted law has always been an anti-gun time bomb waiting to explode in the hands of an anti-gun president — which we now have," the group said.

Mr. Schumer tried to pass his bill in the Senate late last month, just before lawmakers took off for Thanksgiving vacation, but it was blocked by a Republican senator.

In a brief prepared statement, Mr. Coble urged the reauthorization of the act, pointing out that it passed with bipartisan support in 1988, as well as when it was renewed for five years in 1998 and for 10 years in 2003.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group for the guns and ammunition industry, supports an extension of the bill without the additions that would ban weapons manufactured using 3-D printing technology.

The group said the current law has been effective in preventing the illegal manufacturing and sale of undetectable firearms and advances in technology have improved law enforcement and security officials' ability to detect illegal weapons.

"We are unaware of a single crime having been committed in the United States with an illegal undetectable firearm, let alone an illegally possessed undetectable firearm," NSSF senior vice president and general counsel Larry Keane wrote in a recent letter to congressional leaders. "As the trade association for the firearms industry, we are always concerned that laws and regulations do not hamper the ability of our members to take advantage of technological advancements in manufacturing processes and in product research and design."

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