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Senator wants Net gun sales restricted

New York Democrat Charles Schumer has introduced a bill that would tighten regulations on sales of guns online.

    A federal lawmaker wants online gun sellers to put down their weapons--or at least control who gets them.

    Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) yesterday introduced the Internet Gun Trafficking Act (S. 637) to tighten regulations regarding the transfer of firearms over the Internet.

    "The Act would plug a gaping loophole in the enforcement of federal firearms laws--the ability of felons and minors to find guns for sale online and illegally acquire those guns without detection," Schumer said on the Senate floor.

    "In particular, a number of Internet Web sites are designed specifically to allow individuals who are not licensed firearms dealers to offer their firearms for sale," he continued. "[This bill] would require anyone who operates an Internet site, which offers firearms for sale or otherwise facilitates the sale of firearms posted or listed on the Web site, to become a federally licensed firearms manufacturer, importer, or dealer."

    Illegal gun sales are the latest e-commerce concern nagging lawmakers, who have found it hard to track whether laws are being followed online because of the global, freewheeling nature of the Net. Regulators also plan to probe online pharmacies, and want to crack down on liquor sales to underage surfers.

    Schumer pointed to eBay's decision last month to halt weapon sales on its online auction service as proof that stronger laws are need to curb illegal gun sales on the Net. eBay stated that current laws for offline gun sales were not a good fit for the Net because sellers and buyers can't meet face-to-face.

    The Internet Gun Trafficking Act would require any seller of a firearm to get a federal license. The bill also calls on site operators that host weapons sales to register their site with Secretary of the Treasury.

    Moreover, the bill would require sites that resell guns to prohibit "prospective firearms sellers and buyers [from contacting] one another directly." Instead, licensed "middlemen" would have to require that "all firearms sold as a result of being listed on their Web sites be shipped to them?.rather than directly to the buyers." Then the Web site operator would have to comply with federal firearms laws, such as not shipping guns to an unlicensed buyer. The same rule would apply to "gun show" sites. Violators could receive unspecified fines and up to two years in prison.