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Terrorist's Special: a Mindless Idea

January 03, 1988

Anyone with any sense would be appalled by the concept of plastic handguns that shoot real bullets and can kill real people. One exception is the National Rifle Assn. And because of NRA opposition, legislation by Sens. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and Strom Thurmond (D-S.C.) to prohibit the manufacture of such terrorist specials was dead in 1987.

But Metzenbaum and Thurmond will try again this year, and this legislation should be one of the priorities of Congress.

There is a single major reason to manufacture a handgun out of specially hardened plastic: to have a weapon that can be sneaked through security screens and into airports and other places where the absence of firearms is critical. One such area would be a room in which the President of the United States was appearing.

The NRA says that the bill is unnecessary because no undetectable weapons yet exist. But there are reports of such firearms about, and at least one manufacturer says that his firm is capable of making a plastic gun but has decided not to do so for now. Further, the NRA says that this is just another end run to take firearms away from the people. Nonsense. The legislation would not affect any guns now owned by anyone in this country.

The Metzenbaum-Thurmond legislation would set a minimum standard of detectability for firearms, based on a complex formula. The rock-bottom standard would be that the weapon would have to contain at least 8 1/2 ounces of steel so that it could be picked up by a standard detector like those now in use at airports. As detection technology improves, the standards might be relaxed, Metzenbaum said.

There are far too many guns in circulation now, causing terror and death. To permit an undetectable terrorist's special to join the arsenal would be mindless and absurd.

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