S. 2099 "The Handgun Safety and Registration Act of 2000" is no hoax

By Lisa S. Dean
web posted October 2, 2000

While the Internet makes it possible for millions of people to find very useful information on the Internet and share it with one another via email, it also makes it possible for people to present false information and hoaxes as the "real thing" as well.

Many of these hoaxes come in the form of action alerts, urging people to call their members of Congress because some bill that would destroy our liberty is about to be voted on. A perfect example is the email that continues to be spread alleging that bill number 602P is being sponsored by Rep. Tony Schnell that would require a per-minute access charge on Internet service providers, a fee that would ultimately to be passed on to consumers.

This concept frightened the public and the result was that thousands of people were calling their members urging them to vote against this horrible bill. As it turned out, anyone with a reasonable knowledge of Capitol Hill knows that bill numbers generally don't end in a letter so there was no bill number 602P. Moreover, there is no member of Congress named Tony Schnell. It was a hoax but thousands of people believed it was true.

A similar hoax is being spread now. This time it's about guns. Again, thousands of people are receiving emails that make the claim that Congress is considering making it a requirement that gun-owning citizens list every gun that they own on their tax forms next year.

This is a hoax but what makes it so believable to so many people is that fact that there is a growing anti-gun bias in this country and it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that Congress would do something that outrageous. But Congress hasn't.

Does that mean that we can breathe a sigh of relief because our Second Amendment rights are safe and secure? Not at all. There is a real bill circulating in Congress with a real bill number attached and is being offered by a real Congressman, although in this case, a senator. Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island has introduced S. 2099 "The Handgun Safety and Registration Act of 2000" which, while it does not require Americans to list their guns on their tax forms, the bill does, among other things, according to the bill's proponents:

  • Adds handguns to the list of weapons registered by the Secretary of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), under the National Firearms Act (NFA), which currently covers machine guns, short-barrel shotguns, short-barrel rifles, silencers, bombs, grenades, and other specialized weapons.
  • Requires all handguns, including those currently in private possession, to be registered with ATF within one year of enactment. If a handgun is transferred to another individual during the one-year transition period, the bill requires the handgun to be registered prior to the transfer.
  • Imposes federal law enforcement background checks on all handgun transfers, including both primary and secondary transfers. For all NFA weapons, ATF conducts background checks through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), and the National Law Enforcement Tracking System (NLETS). To ensure compliance, the bill also requires the Secretary to take measures to inform the public of the requirements of the Act, such as public service announcements.
  • Requires ATF to share handgun registration data with local, state, and federal law enforcement officials to enhance tracing capabilities.
  • Imposes a $5.00 tax on handgun registration and a $50.00 tax on the making of a handgun.

If passed into law, this system would require that "the handgun owner (the registrant) obtain an ATF registration form and FBI fingerprint form FD-258, either from his local Chief Law Enforcement Officer, by mail from ATF, at a U.S. Post Office, or from a regional ATF/Treasury Department facility." Complete the form, enclose a recently taken photograph of himself, has his fingerprint taken by law enforcement authorities, pays his $5.00 tax and mails it to the ATF.

It's so simple that it almost sounds like a pleasurable experience. But we know that the long-term consequence of such a Big Brotherish scheme will be anything but that and that, my friends, is no hoax.

Lisa Dean is Vice President for Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation.

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