Senate Clears House Plastic-Gun Ban for Obama Signature

The U.S. Senate today passed a House measure to extend for 10 years a ban on weapons that can evade metal detectors, clearing the legislation for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The bill bans the possession, use or manufacture of any weapon that can’t be recognized by a metal detector or X-ray machine. The House passed the extension by a voice vote last week, and the Senate followed suit roughly six hours before the law, first enacted in 1988, was set to expire.

“Weapons like these pose a threat to our security and personal safety,” Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who co-sponsored the measure, said in a statement. “We’ve got to keep them off our streets.”

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York sought to tighten the legislation’s language to prohibit removal of a piece of metal from plastic weapons. Schumer argued the change was needed to prevent plastic guns made with 3-D printers from becoming legal. After Republicans objected, senators passed the House measure without Schumer’s provision.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of trying to “force changes” in the measure at the last minute. He said the extension of current law is “important” to make sure that guns are discovered by metal detectors.

Airplane Safety

“The safety of airplanes or federal buildings or similar places would be threatened if their metal detectors could not identify guns,” he said in a statement.

Extension of the plastic-gun ban comes days before the anniversary of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 elementary school students and six adults.

The National Rifle Association, the largest U.S. gun lobby, has been silent on the plastic-gun ban.

In April, the Senate failed to advance expanded background checks for gun buyers, a stripped-down version of Obama’s call for stricter firearms limits after the Newtown shootings.

His proposal had included bans on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines such as the Bushmaster rifle and 30-round clips used in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.

The current ban requires that guns be made with at least 3.7 ounces of stainless steel so they can be detected by screeners. It doesn’t require the steel portion to be attached.

The bill is H.R. 3626.

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