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Gun tax proposals proliferating

By Kay Bell ·
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Posted: 4 pm ET

Using tax policy to shape individual actions and attitudes is not new.

On the carrot side, Uncle Sam encourages homeownership by offering a variety of federal tax breaks. Politicians show their support for families via the child tax credit and child and dependent care credit.

Governments also wield sticks by taxing behaviors deemed inappropriate or unhealthy.

We have tobacco taxes to discourage smoking. Higher fuel taxes prompt purchase of more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly autos. Tanning, cited as a contributor to skin cancer, is now taxed to help pay for part of the national health care reform law. And taxes on fatty foods and sugary beverages continue to pop up in legislatures nationwide.

Now weapons have been added to the so-called sin tax list.

Chicago-area lawmakers, who've watched the number of gun deaths in their city and surrounding suburbs skyrocket, agreed last fall to a "violence tax." This $25 tax on every gun purchased in Cook County (gun sales already are prohibited in Chicago) is supposed to offset health care and other costs of gun violence.

The Chicago-area action was controversial when it was passed in November 2012. Then a month later, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., occurred. The shooting of 20 first-graders and six school employees has spurred a rash of gun-tax bills at the federal and lower government levels.

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., has introduced a bill that would impose a federal 10 percent tax on "any concealable" firearm. Revenue raised by H.R. 793, known as the Firearm Safety and Buyback Grant Act of 2013, would help fund a national gun buyback program. The bill has 23 cosponsors and is pending in both the House Ways and Means and Judiciary committees.

On the state level, legislation that would impose taxes on guns or bullets has been introduced in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey and Washington state.

Sin tax self-righteousness?

Will the horror of Sandy Hook last long enough for these measures to make it through the arduous legislative process? Will gun lobbyists be able to sway enough lawmakers and voters to their side to prevent these and other bills targeting weaponry?

And are such taxes even effective in achieving the behavioral changes for which they were designed? Sort of.

Sin taxes tend to work only when they are substantial. Antismoking groups say that the higher cost of a pack of cigarettes, thanks to added taxes, is a main reason why smoking has declined among young people. With limited discretionary income, many youths have opted to spend their meager earnings on things other than cancer sticks.

Smokers who can afford it grumble about the added cost, but continue to buy the higher taxed product.

Still, sin taxes will continue.

Beyond the revenue possibilities and the hope that bad behavior might be changed, such levies provide us with a sense of punishing people for doing something we think they shouldn't.

Remember, though, such self-righteousness is all well and good until the bad act being taxed is your favorite vice.


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Veteran contributing editor Kay Bell is the author of the book "The Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes" and a co-author of the e-book "Future Millionaires' Guidebook."

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citizen kane
March 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

how about an obama supporter tax. This way they can pay for all of the government programs they feel are so necessary,especially when someone else funds them

silver star
March 28, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I have been a law enforcement officer for over thirty years.
I WAS SWORN TO UP HOLD THE CONSTITUTION, NOT SUPPORT THE VIEWS OF THE PRESIDENT. I WILL REFUSE TO ENFORCE ANY LAWS THAT ATTEMPT TO VIOLATE THE 2ND AMENDMENT. I don't beleive that 90% of the public support new gun laws. Except for the hand selected few that were polled. I cannot list my real name due to my job.

Ken Spurgeon
March 27, 2013 at 8:01 am


The Second Amendment is not a "guaranteed right". That infers that the right comes from government. The Second Amendment "protects our inalienable right" from infringement by government. There is a huge difference and you need to get it right lest uninformed voter will believe that rights flow from government. I shudder at this thought.

March 26, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Maybe a legislator should offer an amendment to tax any violent video game that has guns in it. And the funds generated from that can be used to fund an Eddie Eagle type gun education program for kids

A guy searching
March 26, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Bullet taxes have already been ruled unconstitutional in California 9th circuit, and they violate the equal protection under the commerce clause as states can not prevent citizens from buying bullets outside of their states. The same way that NY is now trying to use bullet registration as a means of gun control also violates the commerce clause and equal protection clause. NY is now being sued for their antigun and antibullet tax and registration laws and most likely will loose to the NRA in court.

March 25, 2013 at 7:45 pm

"Gun control" is not about guns, it's about control.
Its always Democrats pushing it, and it's always part of the big government plans they have.

There is nothing inherently evil about owning a gun or several.
We have a constitutional right to own guns.

Say the Pledge of Allegiance. Note that it does not use the word "Democracy;" it refers to the fact that we have a "Republic," and that Republic happens to be based on the Constitution. It does not require approval by the majority at any time; a Democracy does.

Obama is nearly desperate to destroy the Republic and replace it, for now, with a Democracy; then entice the majority to vote for what he wants. Eventually, the Democracy he wants would then be replaced by a dictatorship, in a collectivist society, with him, basically as the Emperor.

Just my $.02 worth...

March 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I do not like golf. lets tax the heck out it.
I do not like baseball lets tax the heck out of it.
I do not like cable tv lets tax the heck out of it.
I do not like texting lets tax the heck out of it.
perty soon everone will be like me. At least thats what the libs think

March 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

I agree Andy, the anti-gunners just don't get it, self protection is a God given right, it's not a sin or vice. I can go days and weeks without going to the range and punching holes in paper, what sin did I commit?

March 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm

It's just a scam to take away our legal rights to protect ourselves from the very same scumbags we wish to disarm.The people who vote for these laws have protection in place already,but they wish to ingnore the peasants.If the War on Drugs is failing to take away the method of support for inner city gangs,then how do you think they will willingly be disarmed?It is absolutely being ingnored because of the desire for illegal drugs by the very elite that want guns banned. Chicago has much deeper, sinful ways than you may be wanting to admit.

Andy Jarvis
March 21, 2013 at 8:03 pm

How can legal gun ownership be considered a "sin" or "vice" when it is a constitutionally guaranteed right?