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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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steve A
April 08, 2013 at 11:18 pm

By "POOP HEADS", I mean those who would infringe on our rights... Ain't that a funny name!! It makes me laugh. I think we all need a laugh in these times of ridiculousness. I think I spelled that right???

steve A
April 08, 2013 at 11:14 pm

I hate to be so simple minded, but... Beware, for the POOP HEADS ARE IN CHARGE!!!

April 06, 2013 at 1:59 pm

That's because politicians for the most part don't have a clue, about this issue or most others. Don't beleive, it, watch the latest interviews from Feinstein and Biden.

April 04, 2013 at 10:07 am


April 03, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Wow, what's next? I shoot a few hundred rounds a month through one of my many pistols(that have never shot anyone), or one of my shotguns (shooting clay pigeons, not people). I do reload, but if they are going to increase the tax on bullets they will probably increase tax on the powder, and lead! I own many guns and have never, and will never commit a crime with one! Further taxing of bullets is just showing the ignorance of our government. How many bullets does it take to commit a crime anyway? Do you think that a few extra cents a bullet will keep a criminal from commiting a crime? NO, but it will hurt those of us that shoot for sport!!

The Narrator
April 02, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Where is the Birth Tax on babies born to low income and welfare mothers? Statistics indicate that those offspring are the majority of the criminals who end up committing crimes of violence, both gun and other types. It makes as much sense if not more than this gun violence tax.

Jerry Coe
April 02, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I think a lot of America's problems would be solved overnight if legislators had to take some kind of a competency test; the vast majority of Democrats would end up at the Maxine Waters Home For The Morbidly Obtuse.

You don't decrease gun violence of the few LAWLESS in society by further limiting the LAWFUL, God given constitutional rights of the vast majority. Get it? Get it? Well, you better because a lot of us are just about at the point of making it clear in stronger terms.

April 01, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Well, this is uncommonly stupid. What is this new trend of punishing law abiding citizens for the actions of criminals?

The analogy to smoking is excellent. We know that smoking causes damage to people exposed to the smoke. It isn't a matter of "if", but "when". If you smoke, it will cause damage.

The vast majority of firearms never hurt anyone however. My shotgun is 108 years old and has been used very regularly. the extent of the damage done is when I shoot until my shoulder is sore.

March 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm

we already pay a extra tax on guns and ammo and have been for years . it goes to pay for wildlife mangement and wildlife habitate and preserves that alot of nongun owners enjoy though they don't pay for it.

March 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

1) It would be the equivalent of a poll-tax. An additional burden on the poor.
2) Once again, this latest "clever" gun-control tactic attempts to reduce gun-violence (criminals) by targeting/punishing the non-violent (non-criminals).