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SB-2099 - Senate Bill Requiring Federal Tax on Guns

Take a grain of truth, sprinkle it with false and misleading statements, add a heaping dollop of paranoia, and what do you have?

Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: Sep. 2000
Status: Outdated / False

Example:
Email text contributed by a reader, Sep. 18, 2000:

Gun owners beware!

Back Door Bill (SB-2099)

Senate Bill SB-2099 will require us to put on our 2000 1040 federal tax Form all guns that you have or own. It may require fingerprints and a tax of $50 per gun. This bill was introduced on Feb. 24. This bill will become public knowledge 30 days after it is voted into law. This is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Act of 1986. This means that the Finance Committee can pass this without the Senate voting on it at all.

The full text of the proposed amendment is on the U.S. Senate homepage: http://www.senate.gov/. You can find the bill by doing a search by the bill number. (SB-2099) You know who to call; I strongly suggest you do. Please send a copy of this e-mail to every gun owner you know to help STOP this bill!!


PLEASE NOTE: This is an old rumor dating back to September 2000 (see analysis and update below). No such bill was introduced in 2009.

ANALYSIS: As of this writing (September 2000), Senate Bill 2099 (S. 2099) does exist, but the legislation introduced by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island on February 24 has little in common with the description above.

  • Email: "Senate Bill SB-2099 will require us to put on our 2000 1040 federal tax Form all guns that you have or own."

    No, it won't. What the bill would require if it becomes law is the registration of all handguns. Its title is: "The Gun Registration and Safety Act of 2000." There is indeed a provision for a tax on all registered weapons, but it has nothing to do with your federal income tax forms and everything to do with establishing a national database of handgun owners.

  • Email: "This bill will become public knowledge 30 days after it is voted into law."

    Nonsense. It has been public knowledge ever since its introduction. Gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association have been monitoring its progress (or lack thereof) closely and have referenced it in legislative alerts.

  • Email: "This is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Act of 1986. This means that the Finance Committee can pass this without the Senate voting on it at all."

    Poppycock. The law would involve a revision of the Internal Revenue Act, yes, but this bill has to go through standard Senate protocols before it can be passed. Besides, didn't a previous sentence just say it would become public knowledge only after it is "voted into law?"

  • Email: "Please send a copy of this e-mail to every gun owner you know to help STOP this bill!!"

    By all means protest this bill, or support it, if you feel moved either way. But be aware that nobody — including its main sponsor — expects the unpopular proposal to survive committee, let alone pass both houses of Congress. Even the National Rifle Association rates S. 2099 a low priority, having stated as recently as August 25, 2000: "While NRA opposes this legislation, there is no real threat of it passing at this time. Please continue to focus your energy on pending legislation in the U.S. House, and especially, in the U.S. Senate, that poses immediate threats to our freedoms."

Machiavellian schemes

Conspiracy theories play well on the Internet and have a time-honored place in the debate over gun control in the United States. A significant number of Second Amendment defenders not only argue but seem to sincerely believe that the only real reason gun control laws exist is to pave the way to a totalitarian state.

Within this world view it makes sense to believe that Machiavellian schemes are afoot; that anti-gun forces seek to bypass the rule of law to pass covert legislation of which the populace will only become aware when it's too late. The rumor under discussion fits right into this paradigm, more than making up for what it lacks in truth value with high drama verging on hysteria. In under a month of circulation, the email has already prompted hundreds of queries to Congressional offices from concerned but misled citizens across the U.S. If the author(s) of the email intended to stir up a fuss, they have accomplished their mission.

Lest anyone seek to justify the spread of misinformation by arguing that it's still good for the gun-rights cause because it rouses people to action, I hasten to point out that it has also roused the opposing side. In fact, GunRegistration.org, an association dedicated to enacting registration laws, now flaunts a color-coded critique of the fallacious email on its website and is using it to drum up support for the very bill it was designed to quash.

Like the chain letters say: "What goes around comes around."

2009 update:

With the "SB-2099" rumors circulating again in the wake of the 2008 election, the National Rifle Assocation released the following informational alert in May 2009:

Clearing Up the Rumors: The Truth About The “Gun Tax Bill”

Friday, May 29, 2009

In the last few weeks, NRA-ILA has received hundreds of e-mails warning us about “SB-2099,” a bill that would supposedly require you to report all your guns on your income tax return every April 15.

Like many rumors, there’s just a grain of truth to this one. Someone’s recycling an old alert, which wasn’t even very accurate when it was new.

There actually was a U.S. Senate bill with that number that would have taxed handguns—nine years ago. It was introduced by anti-gun Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and it would have included handguns under the National Firearms Act’s tax and registration scheme. This has nothing to do with anyone’s Form 1040, of course.

Fortunately, S. 2099 disappeared without any action by the Senate, back when Bill Clinton was still in the White House. We reported about it back then, just as we report about new anti-gun bills every week. Now, it’s time for gun owners to drop this old distraction and focus on the real threats at hand.

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Sources and further reading:

The Truth About The 'Gun Tax Bill'
National Rifle Association, 29 May 2009

S. 2099: Handgun Safety and Registration Act of 2000
Library of Congress

Reed Introduces Legislation to Register Handguns
U.S. Senate Website

Handgun Tax?
National Rifle Association Legislative Alert

Misleading Email
GunRegistration.org

Fake Email Raises Concerns Among Gun Owners
Scripps Howard News Service via Capitol Hill Blue


This article was originally published Sep. 19, 2000
Last updated on June 3, 2009

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