Proposals in Congress would mandate national gun owner database, licensing requirements

The bills would level a 30% tax on guns, 50% tax on ammunition

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Guns for sale in a Virginia gun store
Rifles for sale at a Virginia gun store
(AFP Contributor/Getty)
Last Updated:
May 29, 2020 - 2:59pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A pair of bills now in Congress would, if passed, impose major new restrictions on American gun owners, including a nationwide database of firearm license holders, significant new taxes on guns, and bans on large classes of firearms.

The legislation was proposed earlier this year, though it appears they may have stalled due to the congressional recesses in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020, legislation with bills in the House and Senate, is meant to "end the epidemic of gun violence and build safer communities by strengthening Federal firearms laws and supporting gun violence research, intervention, and prevention initiatives," according to the text of the bill. 

The law, proposed in the House by Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson and the Senate by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, would if passed be the first in the country to essentially nationalize basic firearm ownership rules, dictating a federal licensing scheme outside of which Americans would not be allowed to purchase guns. 

The bill will likely have a better chance of passing the Democrat-controlled House then in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The law would forbid anyone under 21 from purchasing a firearm. Licensees would have to complete firearms training and submit a photograph of themselves to the federal government, as well as undergo a criminal background check. The licenses would expire after 10 years.

Notably, the law would establish a database of federal firearm licensees, a measure opposed by gun control advocates for decades. 

"The Attorney General shall establish an electronic database, which shall be accessible by Federal, State, local, and Tribal law enforcement agencies and licensed dealers, through which a licensed dealer may verify the validity of a Federal firearm owner's license," the law reads.

Huge bans on firearms, major new taxes on ammo

The law would enact new bans on hundreds of different types of firearms, including "all AR types" of rifles. The semi-automatic AR-style rifles are among the most popular firearms in the country. 

It would also forbid Americans from owning "a firearm silencer or firearm muffler," though it exempts law enforcement and military from that ban. 

The law further levies a 30% tax on guns purchased in the United States, along with a 50% tax on "shells and cartridges" bought here, though it again exempts the United States government from those levies. 

Neither Warren's nor Johnson's office responded to requests for comment on the bill on Friday morning. 

In the House, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on March 10. The Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Finance in early February. 

In introducing the bill in February, Johnson called it "the most comprehensive piece of gun reform legislation this Chamber has ever seen."

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