A bill to amend a 1986 Internal Revenue Service code to require the registration of handguns and other firearms has been introduced in the Senate by a Rhode Island lawmaker who believes Americans “overwhelmingly” support such registration.

The bill, introduced Feb. 24 by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. then referred to the Senate Committee on Finance, is called the “Handgun Safety and Registration Act of 2000.” According to a bill summary, the legislation would amend Chapter 53 of the Internal Revenue Code (Machine Guns, Destructive Devices, and Certain Other Firearms) to “require the registration of handguns in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.”

That database, Reed officials said, would be available to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies only and would be available on the Internet.

The bill would also allow “for the sharing of registration information with State and local law enforcement agencies” and “provide for the imposition of the five dollar transfer tax on handguns and a $50 tax upon the making of each handgun.” It also calls for authorization to appropriate funds to manage the program and it would exempt handgun registration information from the disclosure restrictions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

The bill currently has no co-sponsors and no committee action has been scheduled to discuss it.

However, Reed has set up an online petition on his web site encouraging people to pledge their support for his measure.

“For far too long in America, too many gun crimes have gone unsolved because law enforcement doesn’t have the tools to tie criminals to the handguns they use in crimes,” the petition said. “Requiring handguns to be registered would help law enforcement officers do their jobs more effectively.”

According to the petition, Reed’s measure would also require current handgun owners to register their weapons. The bill would make it a felony to transfer ownership of a handgun “without prior law enforcement approval.”

Reed defended his legislation, saying it was needed to “reduce illegal gun trafficking by providing for more efficient tracing of handguns used in crimes and tougher penalties for those who sell guns to illegal purchasers.”

Reed added that his bill “will limit criminals’ access to guns. Background checks will finally be performed on all handgun sales. Before a handgun owner sells a gun without registering it, they will be forced to think hard about the crime they are about to commit and the 10 years they may spend in prison.”

Handgun Control, Inc., as well as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Violence Policy Center, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Physicians for Social Responsibility have all come out in support of the bill.

The Rhode Island senator’s office said Reed’s bill was introduced “in response to law enforcement officials’ complaints that the methods available for tracing handguns used in crimes are extremely inefficient and provide criminals an advantage over the police.”

“Without restricting in any way the possession or sale of hunting rifles or shotguns used by law-abiding sportsmen, this legislation will give law enforcement officials the tools to conduct faster and more reliable tracing of handguns used in crime, and prevent handguns from falling into criminal hands in the first place,” said the senator.

Reed said he was “under no illusion” as to the ultimate outcome of the bill, that “this Congress or the next Congress” would eventually pass his measure.

“It’s about time Congress considers legislation like the Handgun Safety and Registration Act of 2000 to require the registration of handguns in this country,” said Sarah Brady, chairman of Handgun Control, Inc.

“For far too long in America, too many gun crimes have gone unsolved and murderers are getting away with murder because law enforcement doesn’t have a clear paper trail to follow,” she said. “Requiring handguns to be registered — like we register cars — would help law enforcement officers do their jobs, solving crimes.”

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, criticized the new legislation, and said that statistics continually show that more gun control measures equates to a rise in violent crime.

“Forcing people to be checked out by the government before they buy a gun is not going to keep criminals from getting a gun,” Pratt said, adding that a new report in Great Britain says the island nation has about 3 million illegal weapons.

“A gun ban in England has not kept criminals from stocking up, so what makes us think a Brady instant check in the U.S. will get any better compliance than a ban in England?” he said. The English study, Pratt said, was done by government agencies.

Brian Puckett, founder of the pro-gun organization Citizens of America, said that registration will lead to eventual confiscation, something he as a California resident recently experienced.

“A couple of years ago the state required all owners of certain banned semi-automatic weapons – those who owned them before the ban – to register their weapons,” Puckett said. “They assured everyone that the registration would never lead to confiscation,” an oath, he said, that Gov. Gray Davis and state lawmakers broke in January when they reversed their decision and required the weapons to be surrendered.

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