Though Buck Rogers’ atomic pistol isn’t supposed to make its debut until the 25th century, some would argue it’s already available, courtesy of three-dimensional printers and plastic.
That’s right: The technology already exists to fabricate a gun out of plastic that’s capable of firing multiple rounds, and like most gee-whiz stuff of the day, it’s getting cheaper and better all the time. So Congress needs to acknowledge this as it addresses the issue for security screening purposes.
The law banning the manufacture of firearms that can pass through airport X-ray machines undetected expires Monday, and the Republican-led House has proposed extending it by 10 years. That’s not enough. The current law, which requires some part of the gun to contain enough metal to be detected by an X-ray scanner, has a loophole that allows the metal part to be nonfunctional and easily removed. In other words, the law is toothless and would leave the flying public increasingly vulnerable as 3-D printers get more sophisticated and less expensive.
The Senate would address the problem by requiring that the metal part be nonremovable and large enough to be detected by the screener. Naturally, gun control foes want no part of the tougher standard, claiming it’s unnecessary because the technology is so expensive and so imperfect that the guns don’t fire reliably. Perhaps both claims are true to some extent now, but at the rate of technological advancement in so many products these days, it’s hard to believe that will be the case by the time the extension of the law is due to expire once again.
Fix the law now, then no changes will be needed for another 10 years.