By Stephen C. Webster on December 04, 2013

House Republicans have finally found a piece of gun control legislation they can support, voting overwhelmingly on Tuesday for a 10-year extension of the nation's plastic gun ban.

However, the vote was not tallied exactly as it fell. House Speaker John Boehner put it up to a voice vote only, despite the National Rifle Association's silence on the matter, blocking the public from identifying how their representatives voted.

Extending the 1988 Undetectable Firearms Act is the first time this Congress has approved a piece of gun control legislation. A previous attempt by Democrats to expand background checks and close loopholes for firearms purchasers was completely shut out. Ever since, tea party Republicans who control the House have refused to discuss any type of gun control measure, especially after President Barack Obama said he would like to see the assault weapons ban reinstated.

The law Republicans ultimately supported on Tuesday was originally signed by President Ronald Reagan after an intense lobbying campaign by a group that would later become The Brady Campaign, founded by Reagan's former press secretary James Brady, who was shot and rendered disabled by would-be assassin John Hinkley, Jr. It has since been extended twice with overwhelming bipartisan support.

While the law initially passed in 1988 because it did not actually affect any firearm available for sale back then, that is not the case today. A libertarian firearms enthusiast from Austin, Texas, recently released schematics for what he called "The Liberator," an all-plastic gun that can be produced by consumer-level 3D printers. The weapon's inventor got around the plastic gun ban by inserting a small metal cube into the device, even though it's not required to function.

Democrats were also overwhelmingly in favor of extending the plastic gun ban, but wanted to expand it to regulate the use of 3D printers. With the current ban set to expire on Monday, the Senate will take up debate next, and Democrats plan to make a push for enhanced controls over 3D printing technology.

It's unclear if Republicans will be as receptive to updating the plastic gun ban to address the dangerous applications of 3D printing.

"The House bill is better than nothing, but it's not good enough," Senator Chuck Schumer told CNN. "We absolutely must close the loophole that allows anyone to legally make a gun that could be rendered invisible by the easy removal of its metal part. Under current law, it is legal to make a plastic gun so long as it has some metal in it, even if it is easily removable. The bill we'll try to pass in the Senate would fix that."

Photo: Flickr user joshlopezphoto, creative commons licensed.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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