Friday, May 05, 2006

Another Plastic Gun

Schneier generally sneers (justifiably) at what he calls "movie-threats." Those threats that are essentially plausible, but most likely would only be seen in the movies. Here's a case where he posts a security risk about another "plastic" gun that can get past security xray analysis.
Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said today that he will issue a warning to other police agencies after his officers seized an assault weapon made with so little metal it does not clearly show up on a security X-ray.

Narcotics officers found the Professional Ordnance Carbon-15 Type-97 pistol in the car of a drug suspect in Newark and noticed it was a cut above the usual weaponry employed by local drug dealers, Fontoura said.

Officers in his ballistics laboratory, who said they had never seen an assault weapon made with so much plastic, had it taken to Newark Liberty International Airport earlier today for a test-run through the security scanners - minus its 30-round clip.
Note the lack of a clip and rounds. Not a very useful gun. Not even a very useful stick. I also wonder what made this officer decide that he had to do some independent testing of whether this weapon could get through the xray check. Not really in his job description to do that sort of testing, nor is it likely to be his forte in deciding what meets the BATFE standards.

The best part is this:
Joseph Green, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said federal law requires firearms be made with sufficient metal content to be detectable at security checkpoints.

He said he could not immediately determine whether this weapon met those requirements but said the agency encouraged the sheriff to pass the word if he believes it poses a threat. He said the ATF would look into the matter if it was asked to by the sheriff.

Mark Hatfield Jr., acting director of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration office at Newark Airport, stopped short of labeling the weapon a threat, but said the test run would help his officers be more vigilant.
You think that maybe the BATFE might have already done this, considering they would have to approve the design for the manufacturer to build and then approve it for sale?

I just get a chuckle at the stopping short of labeling it a threat statement. Especially considering that this gun can be legally purchased in the US and must have met the BATFE standards to do so. I'm going to guess Hatfield prefers his servants, um, citizens, unarmed.

The comments to the post are actually pretty interesting in the number of people that read his site and know guns. I like this comment:
Come on Bruce! You talk about movie plot threats and you go right along with anti gun rhetoric using terms like "assault weapon" when its actually just a pistol. On top of that its barrell is made from steel along with all of the internal parts like the firing pin. This weapon undoubtedly shows up on x-ray machines. By federal law pistols must have a certain amount of metal in them so that they will show up on x-ray machines. What you have here is another case of incompetent law inforcement. They missed it on the x-ray machine so it must be a "composite assault weapon". Give me a break!
I also get a kick out of this one, which I've heard at SayUncle.
Come to think of it, the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) has often claimed that any part that makes a machine gun function as such (i.e., in full-auto mode), is legally and forever a machine gun, subject to all the federal laws about such, which are much tighter than for guns in general. This makes some sense when applied to things that have no other purpose, but in other cases has led to some amusing absurdities. For instance, someone rigged up a gun that would be able to fire full-auto so long as there was tension applied between one part and another. This was accomplished with a shoelace. Therefore, that particular shoelace became, in the eyes of the BATFE, a machine gun.
Schneier knows security, but he apparently doesn't know or much care to know anything about guns.

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