To reduce gun ownership, tax weapons like property
The Kansas City Star
Americans will never surrender their lust for guns.
For a lot of people, one is never enough and bigger is always better. That includes magazines that hold more rounds. The 22-caliber, bolt action rifle that I learned to shoot at age 11 as a Boy Scout is insufficient.
The revolvers my grandfather carried every day to his job as a railroad brakeman and that my dad inherited are so 19th century. Today’s firearms have to give law-abiding gun owners a bigger advantage over “bad guys.”
That lust for guns is why President Barack Obama will find it tough getting Congress to ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, expand background checks and tougher gun-trafficking laws.
Liberal gun laws enable gun owners to be licensed to carry the weapons concealed, and some area cities let people openly carry firearms.
The U.S. ranks No. 1 globally in private gun ownership with 270 million guns in civilian hands, or 88.8 firearms per 100 people. U.S. law enforcement officers only have 897,400 firearms; the military, 3.1 million.
Americans are as addicted to guns as smokers are to cigarettes, as adults are to beer, wine and hard liquor; as gamblers are to slots, lottery tickets and the roll of the dice; and as most of us are to our cars, boats, campers and trailers.
That unwavering attachment to guns should make every gun and bullet subject to federal, state, county and municipal taxes in addition to sales taxes. Think of the bonanza governments could reap.
Cigarettes have been proven to be bad for health. But the heroin-like addiction prompts people to crave the product.
Governments have gotten wise and tax the dickens out of sin industries. New York, for example, ranks No. 1 in the nation with a cigarette tax of $4.35 a pack. Rhode Island is second at $3.50.
Of course a pack of cigarettes in New York costs $12.50, and it’s $8.16 in Rhode Island. But people pay it.
They do in Missouri’s neighboring states. In Illinois the tax is $1.98 a pack. In Kansas the tax is 79 cents a pack.
Missouri has the lowest tax on cigarettes at 17 cents, and a pack costs just $5.87. Compared with other states, Missouri is leaving money on the counter.
Governments aren’t bashful in heavily taxing booze. Alcohol causes myriad health problems, including drunken driving injuries and deaths.
The tax is a way of raising the cost, which lessens the consumption. It also generates revenue, which states need.
The same thing applies to government revenue from lottery tickets and taxes on casinos. States like Missouri and Kansas rake in big money.
The gasoline tax provides vitally needed funding for roads and bridges. Sales and property taxes on cars, trucks, trailers and recreational vehicles help keep city governments, schools, libraries, counties, community colleges and health services solvent.
Guns should be no different. Every gun and clip in homes should be declared for taxing purposes. The bullets, too.
The special federal, state, city and county taxes on guns, bullets and magazines should apply each year. Notices should go out in the mail as they do for real estate and personal property taxes.
The privilege of gun ownership has to come with a cost equal to the damage in loss of property, injuries and life that guns annually cause. Taxing guns will ensure that our society will get less gun ownership. The tax will simply price people out of the habit.
The higher the caliber of the gun — just as with bigger cars and trucks with more horsepower — the higher the tax should be. Higher-caliber bullets and multi-round clips also should be subject to higher taxes.
Hunting equipment should be taxed, too, just to be fair, but at a lower rate. Gun owners can still wrap themselves in the Second Amendment. But they’ll have to pay for the privilege. The gun and bullet tax revenue could fund improved mental health services, boost the quality and reach of the Affordable Care Act and even provide needed care for victims of shootings. Guns are as American as tobacco.
Each helped build this country. But America from the start has been a capitalist nation with taxes. Taxing guns fits the historical capitalist nature of the U.S. What could possibly be wrong with that?
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid send call 816-234-4723 or send email to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.