By adding a ‘sin tax’ to gun and ammo purchases they make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their right to keep and bear arms. It’s just a principle of economics. Participation drops the more expensive a hobby or a recreational activity becomes, even on an incremental scale.
Of course, as mentioned, we’re not just talking about a hobby or an activity or even a bad habit. We’re talking about a constitutionally guaranteed right. As such, the endgame is pretty clear, to make owning firearms cost prohibitive for common citizens.
Cook Country Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who spearheaded the effort last fall when the board approved the measure, argued that the tax revenue is needed to fund the unpaid medical bills of gunshot victims and pay for programs that work to curb the skyrocketing violence in Chicago’s inner city – with 506 murders, the Windy City was the murder capital of America in 2012.
“It was very important to us to tax guns — because we know that guns are the source of incredible violence that we have in our neighborhoods,” Preckwinkle said at an October press conference. “And it’s the proliferation of guns that has made the violence in our neighborhoods so difficult to cope with.”
Last month, a group of gun owners and gun dealers banded together and filed a joint lawsuit to suspend the tax from taking effect, arguing that the tax is “intended to deter individuals from exercising their fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”
Unfortunately, Circuit Court Judge David Atkins denied the request for an injunction on the tax, ruling that the lawsuit didn’t show “that this right is threatened by the tax.”
In other places around the country, similar legislative campaigns are underway, as USA Today reported:
• California Assembly member Roger Dickinson, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would add a 5-cent tax to the sale of every bullet. A hearing is set for April 15. Much of the $50 million in estimated revenue would go to restore funding for mental health screening programs in elementary schools, he says.
Proposing a new tax is “a delicate question at any time,” he says, but the political risks are “worth paying.”
• A committee heard testimony last week on a Nevada bill that would create a $25 tax for gun sales and a 2-cent tax on each round of ammunition. Funds would benefit victims’ services and mental health programs.
• Massachusetts state Rep. David Linsky, a Democrat, proposed a 25% sales tax on ammunition and firearms, with the money going to mental health and victims’ programs, police training and firearms licensing. “We tax cigarettes, we tax alcohol, we tax other items that have a negative effect on society,” he says.
• The Maryland General Assembly passed a bill that includes a fee of up to $25 for handgun licenses. Delegate Jon Cardin, a Democrat, also proposed a 50% tax on ammunition purchases to increase funding for mental health programs and to modernize permitting and licensing procedures.
“This is not taking away people’s guns,” Cardin says.
Gun owners and pro-gun organizations have been adamant about their disdain for these ‘sin tax’ measures.
Larry Keane, the senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told Fox News, “We’re obviously extremely opposed to try to tax the lawful exercise of the Second Amendment rights by law-abiding Americans.”
Keane said that gun owners should be rewarded for making society safer, alluding to the fact that as concealed carry participation has increased over the years, crime – violent crime, property crime and the homicide rate – has uniformly decreased.
“If anything, gun owners ought to be getting a tax rebate for helping reduce crime,” Keane said.
Keane also noted that there is already a federal excise tax that gun and ammunition manufacturers pay on firearms that fund wildlife programs. Adding more taxes on the consumer end only serves to “frustrate and limit the exercise of the Second Amendment.”
Again, this ‘sin tax’ approach or increasing the costs of purchasing firearms and ammo is nothing new.
To a large degree, we’ve seen this strategy successfully employed in New York City, where Bloomberg’s ‘May-issue’ concealed carry laws coupled with astronomically high registration fees have all but ensured that no ordinary person can afford to carry or keep a firearm for self-defense. As a result, only the rich and the well-connected have CCWs.
In the future, it’s clear we can expect to see more of the same.