The House Extends the 1988 Federal Undetectable Fireamrs Act
When the Austrian Glock 17, Generation 1 (in 9x19), hit the United States in the mid-1980s, some believed the new-fangled (and misunderstood) polymer frame pistols would not set off security alarms and claimed these handguns could pass through airport security metal detectors without detection. That is just science fiction, as the slide and barrel are steel, magazine spring, and cartridges and would be easily detectable.
This ultimately led Congress to quickly pass The 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act that President Regan signed into law. Now, millions of Glocks, of many variants ,different calibers, and frame sizes are in the United States. These have the same, or slightly refined, polymer compound frames- and now in its forth generation, Generation 4 Glocks are the most current version, with its sharp checkering being the distinct characteristic.
The 1988 law had a sunset provision, but has been extended twice. The House just passed extension by voice vote. The Senate may try for–and desires--more strict terms, but it is likely to be passed, as it is now, next Monday, December 9, 2013. If not, it will sunset.
The reason for the extension of this law is due to new 3-D material printers that have the ability to create three-dimensional solid objects from CAD software. The printer material can be plastic, paper, rubber, or metal. Ultimately, the thin layers are glued and squeezed together. Assembly takes several hours.
ATF has made an operational .380 gun (9mm Kurtz) from a 3-D printer that has fired several rounds. This would be a gun devoid of metal, and as developmental programs continue to evolve, could now be a true security risk. With the addition of other non-ferris materials, such as ceramic parts where “plastic” would not work, could potentially make these firearms as durable and reliable as those available on the market today. Except for the cartridge, this gun would be undetectable by a metal detector.
There appears to be agreement between the “pro-gun” camps and “anti-gun” groups that no one wants to take the chance of undetectable 3-D printed firearms making their way on to an airplane, or surface in other secure areas. This will likely become an extended law and not sunset this month. There will be a continuous push for an expansion of this law, sought by the Senate democrats, in the future.
I hope this blog post has helped you learn about an obscure law that when passed was based on myth and misperception of one of the most important firearms of our time. Now technology has reached the point where this ill-passed law now covers firearms created to push the boundaries of the past. I urge you to be informed and reach out to your Senators and Congressmen to make your voice heard on this issue. This is the duty of all Americans and your representatives need your input to make sound laws.
This blog was written by Bryan Ciyou, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., Indianapolis, Indiana. Bryan Ciyou practices firearms law in Indiana and consults with law firms of all sizes across the United States on federal firearms law, policy, and as an expert witness.