The Plastic Gun Panic. Not The First Go Around On This

“Plastic guns are going to get people killed. They’re going to be used by terrorists and criminals, and there’s nothing to be done except ban their existence!”


Sound familiar? It should, as this is pretty much what we hear from anti-gun crusaders when we talk about 3D-printed firearms. However, as The Volokh Conspiracy notes, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard it:

Have you heard about the “undetectable plastic gun”? The gun control lobbies call it is “tailor-made for terrorism.” The Washington Post reports that a state sponsor of terrorism is already attempting to obtain these guns. A Post columnist warns that the police “vehemently oppose the introduction of plastic guns into our armed society.” Newsweek predicts the NRA will face a member revolt for opposing legislation to ban plastic guns: “This time the gun lobby may have shot itself in the foot.”

The above is not today’s news. It’s the news from 1985 to 1988, the years of the first plastic gun panic. The supposed “plastic gun” was the Glock pistol, which contains more than a pound of metal, and is easily identified by metal detectors.

Today, millions of Americans own Glock pistols, and they are widely recognized as among the most common and ordinary of handguns. But back in 1985, the Glock was brand new, and the gun control lobbies found a brand new opportunity to terrify the American public. Many politicians and much of the press were eager to embrace the panic. Congress came close to enacting a wide-ranging gun ban.

In 1986 the Washington Post sounds the alarm about plastic guns

“Qaddafi Buying Austrian Plastic Pistol.” That was the headline from columnists Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta in Washington Post on January 15, 1986. According to the article, “The Libyans are said to be trying covert methods to obtain these weapons.”

Today, Glocks are ubiquitous, one of the most common pistols, with many models. But in January 1986, they were little known in America, where only a few thousnd had been sold.

Swiftly, the gun control lobbies began warning Americans about the “plastic pistol.” They dubbed them “terrorist specials” or the “Hijackers Special.” Supposedly, this plastic gun was designed to sneak through metal detectors.


Now, government experts testified that these firearms were easily detectable. After all, they have a good bit of metal in them. Only the receiver is polymer. The rest is good old steel.

But that didn’t stop the government from coming up with laws banning guns that didn’t exist to address a problem that didn’t exist.

Today, we’re dealing with the same thing.

“Oh, but criminals will use these plastic guns to rob people and commit heinous atrocities,” they argue, but have they looked at the Liberator, which is pretty much the only plastic gun out there (it still has metal, but is mostly plastic)? They’re massive. They have to be able to withstand the stress and strain of containing a gunshot and directing it in a specific direction.

In other words, they’re horrible choices for bad guys and bad guys know it.

But hey, don’t let facts get in the way. They didn’t in 1986, so why would they now?

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