- Associated Press - Monday, December 9, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.


SPECIAL COVERAGE: Second Amendment and Gun Control


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.

** FILE ** This photo taken May 10, 2013, shows Cody Wilson holding what he calls a Liberator pistol that was completely made on a 3-D-printer at his home in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American Statesman, Jay Janner)
** FILE ** This photo taken May 10, 2013, shows Cody Wilson ... more >

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.

The prohibition was first enacted in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan and easily renewed twice. The House approved a 10-year extension of the ban last Tuesday.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says that with the law’s expiration at hand, Congress should quickly enact a long extension and study Schumer’s plan later. Other Republicans agree.

Supporters of tightening the rules say the 10-year renewal plays into the NRA’s hands because it reduces Democrats’ ability to revisit the issue.

If, as expected, Democrats fail Monday to tighten the restrictions, it will be the latest in a series of setbacks this year.

Their biggest defeat came in April, when the Senate blocked an effort to expand required background checks for firearms buyers. The proposal was Obama’s top gun-control priority following the elementary school killings.

Background checks, aimed at preventing criminals and the mentally ill from getting weapons, are currently required only for purchases from licensed gun dealers. The rejected bill, by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., would have extended the requirement to all guns bought on the Internet and at gun shows.

Also rejected in April were proposals to ban assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, which have been used in mass shootings.

Story Continues →