In 1980, following an attempt by Dr. Destroyer to conquer the United States using several supervillains as his pawns, Congress responded to widespread outcries by passing the American Superhuman and Paranormal Registration Act (ASPRA). The “Registration Act” required all superhumans to register with the federal government (specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), providing information on their true identities, the nature and extent of their powers, and so forth. Responsibility for registration and record-keeping was transferred to PRIMUS when it was founded in 1986. Costumed crimefighters with super-technology were also required to register and to reveal the capabilities (but not precise technical details) of their devices. Not surprisingly, few superheroes and no villains came forward to register, forcing the government to declare them outlaws.
Ultimately, the law was toothless. The government couldn’t pursue unregistered superheroes due to the negative publicity involved in targeting popular heroes and the fact that without American superheroes the country would be helpless against any number of superhuman threats. Realizing this, the government adopted a strategy of attrition. As villains are captured, they were identified as much as possible, and that information entered into the ASPRA databases. When superheroes needed government assistance or law enforcement sanction, the price was registration. Neither the government nor the superhero community was completely happy with the result, but it got the job done and allowed the US government to build the world’s second largest database on superhuman powers (after the one maintained by UNTIL).