Why Not Tax Guns to Pay for the Harm They Cause?

I don’t know whether federal, state or municipal governments tax guns and bullets. But I am sure that if they do, the taxes are not nearly heavy enough. After all, it’s only fair that the profiteers who make millions from selling guns should help pay for the mayhem they cause.

Any attempt to limit the purchase of weaponry is met by screams about violation of the Second Amendment, which supposedly gives private American citizens the right to own bazookas and tanks (and they do!). Naturally, the protests are eagerly promoted by the National Rifle Association, which represents the people who make a killing from the deadly gun trade.

And the NRA has become so powerful that politicians – apparently even the president – are reluctant to propose gun control today.

The result is that one in four Americans owns at least one gun. According to the NRA,more than 250 million guns are in private hands in these United States – far more than any other country in the world.

The result is predictable. In one year, guns murdered 17 people in Finland, 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales, 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany, 200 in Canada and 9,484 in the United States.

Personally, I wouldn’t tax shotguns and hunting rifles, because as distasteful as hunting is to people like my wife, Sandra, I think it’s a legitimate pastime, and – as my dad used to argue – provides a safe outlet for the natural hostility that the human animal is forced to repress in civilized society.

But I would certainly tax handguns. And I would heap taxes on the kind of weapon – and ammunition – used in the Tucson massacre.

That Glock 19, semi-automatic pistol with its extended magazine (pictured above) has no other purpose but killing people. Yet the NRA and various gun nuts have managed to block attempts to ban the sale of such weapons. It was illegal to sell them in the US from 1994 to 2004 under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. But that ban has been overturned and now the NRA proudly reports there are tens of millions of assault weapons in private hands in America.

Obviously, weapons are far too cheap in the United States. I read an item in the local newspaper reporting the arrest of a Ku Klux Klan leader in nearby Orlando. According to the police, this man was charged with firing into the ground near his girlfriend’s head because she complained about the kind of beer he gave her. The guy and his family live in some rundown trailer that wasn’t even on the county appraiser’s tax roll, yet he could afford to buy a machine gun.

And the accused Tucson assassin, a crazy named Jared Loughner (above), reportedly paid only $500 for his Glock – plus the cost of the bullets, which he picked up at a Wal-Mart. If the weapon cost twice that much, he probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it. And the massacre would never have happened.

Perhaps, some of the revenue from the taxes I propose should go to the victims of gun assaults. And the rest would help lower government debt, which ought to make the fiscal hawks happy.

But my main objective would be to reduce the number of such weapons that find their way into private hands. It’s not the perfect solution, but at least he NRA couldn’t argue that the Constitution forbids it.