The Senate voted Monday to extend a ban on undetectable plastic guns for 10 years just hours before the act was scheduled to expire, but advocates lamented that it didn't go far enough and vowed to push forward to expand it in the near future.
By unanimous consent, the Senate approved a House-passed bill to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act, but Republicans objected to a push from Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, to expand the legislation and require certain nonremovable metal parts to be placed in guns.
"We're going to work hard to try to come to an agreement here to close [the] loophole," Mr. Schumer said.
The White House announced late Monday that President Obama signed the measure into law.
The extension of the act marks the first significant legislative move on guns since last December's school shootings in Newtown, Conn. But the halted push by Mr. Schumer to expand the legislation marks another setback for gun control advocates as the first anniversary of the shootings approaches.
Democrats, citing advances in 3-D printing technology, say that the law should have been expanded, and that the move would make all guns detectable in airport and other building security checks.
The underlying act was passed in 1988 and makes it illegal to manufacture, own, transport, buy or sell any firearm that does not register on a metal detector or does not present an accurate image when put through an X-ray machine. It was renewed once during the Clinton administration and once during the George W. Bush administration.
Mr. Obama placed gun control at the top of his agenda after the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, but any hopes for sweeping legislative action in Congress — such as bans on military-style, semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines — were quickly dashed.
A compromise measure from Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, that would expand gun-purchase background checks failed in the Senate in April, and Congress quickly moved on to other issues.
The measure would have required background checks for firearms purchased online and at gun shows. Currently, federally licensed dealers are the only ones required to perform the checks.
As for Monday's failed attempt to expand the measure, Mr. Schumer raised the issue in May when the State Department ordered Texas-based Defense Distributed to remove a 3-D gun model, called the Liberator, from its website.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also has issued warnings about the technology. The ATF said federal firearms laws do not limit the technology or processes that can be used to make guns, but those who want to sell the manufactured weapons must obtain federal licenses.
Defense Distributed describes itself on its website as "a pending 501(c)(3) status nonprofit corporation in the state of Texas, organized and operated exclusively for charitable and literary purposes."
The House passed the 10-year extension last week. Several groups had urged lawmakers to defeat it, saying it would give Mr. Schumer a vehicle for his plans and would ignite another fight over gun rights.
But the National Rifle Association dismissed those concerns. "The NRA has been working for months to thwart expansion of the [Undetectable Firearms Act] by Sen. Chuck Schumer and others. We will continue to aggressively fight any expansion of the UFA or any other proposal that would infringe on our Second Amendment rights," the NRA said.
The Senate also had been scheduled to vote Monday to confirm Patricia Millett to the powerful federal appeals court in Washington, but that was pushed to Tuesday.
Ms. Millett was to be the first nominee taken up since Democrats triggered the "nuclear option," cutting the votes needed to end a filibuster from 60 to a simple majority — making it harder for the minority party to block nominations.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also sought unanimous consent to move forward with more than 30 additional nominations, many of them lower-level judges or other appointments, but Republicans — upset with the recent rules change — blocked the move.
• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.
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