Eight Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have filed a bill that would require handgun owners to obtain a license and register their firearms with the federal government.
New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, the lead sponsor, introduced the same legislation in 2019, but it failed to make any headway. Proponents hope that this year’s iteration, dubbed the Handgun Licensing and Registration Act of 2021, stands a better chance of success with Joe Biden in the White House.
“Our government requires registration and basic standards for voting, operating a vehicle, even opening a business,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “Yet, for weapons created with the single intent to take a life, we have developed a dangerous aversion to any mechanism to understand where and with whom these weapons reside.”
We require registration for voting, operating a vehicle, even opening a business. Yet, for weapons created with the single intent to take a life, we’ve developed a dangerous aversion to any mechanism to understand where and with whom these weapons reside.https://t.co/ZQYCIEekVE— Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (@RepBonnie) June 4, 2021
“The prevalence of gun violence in our nation is deeply troubling and we cannot delay in finding a solution to save lives,” said New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires, a co-sponsor. “The prevalence of mass shootings just this year show that immediate action must be taken.”
“Americans demand commonsense reform to prevent the ever-growing number of gun violence and incidents around the nation,” said New York Democrat Adriano Espaillat, another co-sponsor. “Americans own an estimated 393 million firearms, accounting for more than one gun for every person in this country. As the number of deaths from gun violence continue to rise to uncharted rates, we simply cannot wait for the next breaking news story to take action.”
The legislation requires the U.S. attorney general to institute a system requiring all handgun owners to obtain a license to own a handgun and then register that firearm in a database maintained by the federal government.
To obtain a license, prospective handgun owners must be at least 21 years of age and would be required to complete a firearms safety course, pass a background check, and submit fingerprints and a recent photograph. The license would expire within five years or less, at which point handgun owners would be required to renew.
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Licensed handgun owners would then be forced to register their firearms with the federal government. To facilitate this process, the bill requires the attorney general to create a “method for easily retrieving information” related to the handgun owner and his or her firearm.
For those who already live in a state with a handgun registration scheme, the attorney general would have to verify that the state system is as strict as the federal system.
Violators would face fines, imprisonment, or both, and the bill specifically prohibits judges from suspending prison sentences.
Rep. Coleman’s legislation articulates a major gun control priority, but it’s unclear whether it will go anywhere. The same legislation was never even considered by the Democrat-controlled Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security when it was introduced in 2019. Though Democrats now control the White House, a handgun registration requirement is not part of Joe Biden’s stated gun control agenda.