On Dec. 9, one of America’s safeguards against illicit weapons will expire. The Undetectable Firearms Act, which has been renewed by Congress twice with bipartisan support since it was enacted in 1993, bans plastic guns that metal detectors and X-ray machines cannot detect.
The law is a sensible and necessary response to the threat of gun violence in an era of terrorism, youth gangs, and mass shootings. It should be updated.
With the arrival of three-dimensional printers, such elusive weapons can be more easily made. But the law does not account for the proliferation of these homemade plastic firearms, which is why many in Congress want to update the measure instead of simply extending it for 10 years.
Democratic lawmakers believe 3-D guns should be singled out as a threat. Many Republicans disagree.
Police nationwide say the law creates opportunities for criminals, terrorists, and gang members to use guns that can elude detection. They seek a specific ban on 3-D gun printing, because of the growing use of technology that makes these stealth weapons possible.
The National Rifle Association, which spends heavily to influence votes in Congress, has yet to signal its position on extending the law. That may account for the reluctance of some lawmakers to speak out about renewal.
Still, the deadline is approaching. Lawmakers of both parties must continue to safeguard Americans against guns, including those from 3-D printers, that are expressly designed to escape detection.