It's called "going viral," and it refers to what happens to information that is of interest to a large number of people when it is published on the internet.

Suddenly, with no checking whatsoever, hundreds of thousands of people forward this information to anyone they think might be interested in it.

It can be an amazing call to action, this going viral - getting people involved in a grassroots movement that can affect how politicians vote - or it can be a real pain in the neck.

Such are the shrill warnings forwarded to me daily on SB-2099, a purported bill in the United States Senate that will require listing of all your firearms on your 1040 income tax form. I have personally received hundreds of warnings by concerned readers and friends who forward the different versions of this foolishness, frequently adding their own warnings of doom unless we all get active and call our congresspersons.

Of course, these well-meaning individuals have done their good deed - they got involved. Surely the people they are sending will get involved, and they will contact their elected representatives, right?

A pox on whatever idiot wrote this sensationalized piece of poppycock. It takes a small grain of truth and exaggerations, and makes it sound as if the jack-booted thugs will be shortly standing on your porch, beating on your door to demand your guns.

According to the most widely disseminated version of this urban legend, SB-2099 will do the following:

 

1. It will require listing of all your firearms on your 1040 income tax form.

2. It will become public knowledge within 30 days after it is voted into law (whatever that means.)

3. It is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Act of 1986, which means the Senate Finance Committee can pass this into law without the Senate voting on it at all.

 

The idiot who composed this false call-to-arms even gives a link to Snopes.com as proof the bill exists - and asks you to check it out.

Obviously, no one bothers to check Snopes, or if they do, they fail to read further than the first paragraph, because Snopes points out that no such bill currently exists.

Back in 2000, anti-gun Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) introduced S-2099, which would have included handguns as registered firearms under the National Firearms Act's tax and registration provisions.

The bill went nowhere, receiving the sponsorship of only two other senators, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), neither of whom ever met a gun-control bill they didn't love.

But now, with the re-introduction of another bill by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill), a former Black Panther from the Chicago area who did time on a weapons charge, S-2099 has been blended into a warning about HR-45, a real bill that likewise went nowhere when it was introduced in 2007, was referred to committee with no other sponsors and died in committee.

Rush reintroduced basically the same bill in the current session, and even though it has absolutely no chance of ever being brought to a vote, those who love to cry "wolf!" have caused this ridiculous piece of ill-conceived gun legislation to go viral, and stir up the gun community.

Such draconian gun-control bills get introduced in every session of Congress, and probably in every legislative session of every state legislature every year.

Remember Al Gore, he who invented the internet?

It is well-remembered by the Democratic Party that Gore's liberal stance on guns and gun control was a deciding factor in his loss to George W. Bush.

The Democrats now hold a majority in Congress, but it is a tenuous hold, made possible only by a large contingent of "Blue Dog" Democrats. These are mostly Southern, conservative Democrats to whom any form of gun-control legislation is anathema because it is anathema to their constituency, and they know it.

Remember back in February, when newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder made the statement that while they didn't intend to subvert anyone's Second Amendment rights, the administration intended to do something about "assault weapons."

Remember Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, stated shortly thereafter that no, they were not going to do anything like that, actually making a public statement that was an embarrassment to Holder.

Pelosi made this statement because 65 Democratic members of the House wrote a joint letter to Holder, telling him they would not consider any form of assault-weapon legislation sent to them. Pelosi was treading a fine line the Democrats have had to walk since gaining the majority in Congress.

The issue of gun control is seen as a "poison pill" - a subject not to be broached, or the shaky coalition maintaining their edge will fall apart. The "Blue Dogs" will vote the party line on most issues near and dear to the Democratic Party, but if they want to go home and face their voters, they cannot vote in favor of gun-control bills.

In addition, the National Rifle Association is sending campaign donations to conservative Democrats - and once any politician has supped at such a trough, he is not going to strangle any golden egg-layer.

This is not to say we should become blasé. The Schumers and Feinsteins, the Lautenbergs and Holders, they are all waiting, perched like vicious birds of prey, ready to swoop down and destroy your personal rights and liberties.

But forget about HR-45 and SB-2099. They're non-issues, andthese internet rumors get our ire up unnecessarily.

And when a real threat is introduced, as they always are, folks who might have gotten involved and written their congressmen won't because they will be burned out by false rumors that have gone viral on the internet.

 

Read more guns, shooting, and politics at www.theshootist.net.

Hutchinson's newest book, written with Todd Masson, is The Great New Orleans Gun Grab, a searing expose' of the scandal of gun confiscations in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is available online at www.neworleansgungrab.com

Hutchinson's first book, The Quest and the Quarry, is a coming-of-age tale of a line of trophy bucks and the youths of a farm family who hunt them. It is available at www.thequestandthequarry.com.

Both books have been chosen Outdoor Books of the Year by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association, and are available from the publisher by calling (800) 538-4355.