Smoke pole taxes

As reported on this site, the Commonwealth of North Marianas Islands has imposed a $1,000 tax on the purchase of a handgun—yes, that’s $1,000 for each handgun bought legally.  This comes as a response to a district court ruling that overturned a forty-year ban on handguns in the territory.

The sequence of events is all too familiar for people who support gun rights.  Heller and McDonald overturned exactly the same sort of bans, and the District of Columbia and Chicago wrote new rules that replaced the bans with a dense tangle of bureaucracy.  The ruling last year in Puerto Rico is going through a similar set of ups and downs.  In June of 2015, the onerous gun control of that island territory was found unconstitutional, but in March of this year, an appeals court justice, Roberto Sanchez Ramos, found that the Ley de Armas (Arms Act) did comply with the requirements of the Second Amendment.

The governor of the Northern Marianas, Ralph DLG Torres, believes the excessive tax imposed on buying handguns could be a model for the rest of the United States to follow.  This is nothing new, though.  Hillary Clinton is on record from 1993 in supporting Senator Bill Bradley’s proposal for a 25% tax on gun sales.  How many positions she’s taken since then or whether she would still support that idea is anyone’s guess.

Does this tax sound familiar?  We’ve had a long history in this country of imposing burdens to make sure only the desirable people exercise rights.  The purpose of poll taxes—taxes collected so that people could vote—were precisely to control who participated in elections, and attitude that “if a man doesn’t have enough interest in his government to pay a dollar or two for the privilege of voting, he’s not worth being a citizen.”  Or if he doesn’t have enough money to pay a burdensome fee.  Or if she believes that a free society shouldn’t put arbitrary requirements on taking part in the rule of that society—or on the personal choices of society’s members.

Another contentious tax comes to mind in relation to the power to tax, the individual mandate to be covered by health insurance.  This mandate was found constitutional under the federal government’s power to tax, though so far, its enforcement measures have been a lot like the British policeman in Robin Williams’s sketch—pay, or I’ll say pay, again.

But in the case of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate is a means of raising revenue to support healthcare reforms.  Poll taxes and exorbitant taxes on the purchase of firearms are openly designed to reduce the number of Americans who are able to exercise a given right.  Senator Paul A. Manglona stated that with regard to the $1,000 tax on each handgun purchase, “this provision will go a long way toward reducing the number of guns coming into the islands.”  He may as well have admitted that he wants to prevent residents of the Northern Marianas from enjoying the protection of the Second Amendment.

If the Northern Marianas Islands wish to escape the authority of the U.S. Constitution, they should hold a referendum for independence.  But if they choose to remain under that law, they, like every other region in this nation, are obliged to respect enumerated rights.  It may seem that a handful of islands in the middle of the ocean don’t matter with regard to what goes on in the mainland, but as pointed out above, this tax is offered as a role model, and plenty of gun control advocates in the states would gladly impose something like it.  And so, as with every other backdoor attempt to chip away at gun rights, we must fight this effort wherever it appears within U.S. jurisdiction.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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