- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Three Democratic senators are pushing for reauthorization of a law that bans plastic guns, calling it a test of Republican antiterrorist rhetoric.

The bill, introduced yesterday by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, would make permanent the “Terrorist Firearms Detection Act” that is set to expire Dec. 10.

“The need for action is urgent,” Mr. Kennedy said. “The danger to security from plastic firearms will not sunset, and the law that bans them shouldn’t sunset either.”

The law bans types of firearms that can’t be detected by X-ray machines and metal detectors. It originally passed in 1988 by a margin of 413-4 in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate.

Mr. Kennedy said he is negotiating with Republican leaders in the House and Senate to get his bill on the agenda.

If he’s thwarted, Mr. Kennedy pledged to attach it to the first continuing resolution that Congress routinely passes late in the year to keep the government running.

Jeff Lungren, spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee, said the committee’s chairman, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, introduced a bill Monday that would extend the ban for 10 years.

“It is [Mr. Sensenbrenner] and the House leadership’s intention to move it as expeditiously as possible,” Mr. Lungren said.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat, said plastic guns in the hands of terrorists aboard an airplane is a greater threat to national security than the tools terrorists used in the September 11 attacks.

“Box cutters are a pale threat when you consider the fact that plastic guns … can get by a metal detector and be carried upon an airplane,” Mr. Lautenberg said. “It’s shocking to me how the administration claims to have such a concern for homeland security, but there is an array of opportunities to attack us with the loopholes in our [gun] laws.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, called the bill a “no-brainer” and that “in our post 9/11 world, you can’t be too careful.”

Mr. Kennedy accused the National Rifle Association of opposing the original bill, and said, “If the NRA continues to oppose the law now, it will be fair to ask, ‘Whose side are they on?’” in the war on terrorism.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, said his organization actually helped write the law in 1988 and fully supports its reauthorization.

“I think Senator Kennedy and Senator Lautenberg need to take a deep breath,” Mr. LaPierre said. “These haymaker charges that they are throwing out there are absurd.”

Mr. LaPierre said he knows of no “legitimate manufacturer anywhere in the world” that makes a plastic gun.

“There are no plastic guns,” Mr. LaPierre said. “It would be the most unsafe product you’d ever imagine. If they’ve got one, I’d like to see it.”

He added that it might be possible that “someone in his garage wants to put together a plastic gun,” and if so, the NRA would be against it.

Mr. Schumer said he is helping to bring attention to this issue now because he expects a vote soon on a contentious bill he opposes that would offer limited liability protection to gun manufacturers and stores that sell guns.

Proponents of the bill are confident of its passage, especially since Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, both support the measure.

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