For the past several days, my colleague Tom Knighton has been covering the ABC News series “Rethinking Gun Violence” and doing a great job of pointing out the bias in the network’s reporting. I’m going to tag in and take on ABC’s latest report in the series, which is all about the supposedly wonderful benefits of taxing the exercise of a constitutional right; in this case, slapping additional taxes on the purchase of firearms and ammunition.
Here is how advocates argue that a tax could be used as one policy lever in a holistic approach to ameliorating gun violence — not with the goal of keeping people from buying guns, but rather to claw back revenue from industry profits to raise billions for American communities.
Does ABC News even understand how taxes work? Any additional tax imposed on the purchase of guns and ammunition doesn’t “claw back revenue” from gun makers. It simply takes more money out of the pocket of gun owners. And why should law-abiding gun owners be singled out for a special tax if the money is supposed to be used to increase public safety for all?
A particularly bloody summer in California this year led lawmakers to propose a tax on guns and ammo to generate revenue specifically to fund community-based prevention programs. AB1223, which would have added an excise tax of 10% on handgun sales and 11% on long guns, precursor parts and ammunition, fell four votes short of advancing by super majority in the state Assembly last summer, but it’s set to be re-introduced in January.
“This tax is for funding gun violence prevention programs,” California Assembly ember Marc Levine, a Democrat who helped draft the proposed legislation, told ABC News. “It’s something everyone can agree on.”
Everyone? I don’t think so. There are certainly plenty of gun owners who are opposed.
Republican opponents of the bill have argued it’s unconstitutional.
“It is a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, told ABC News. “It is unconstitutional to require an excise tax, insurance, any monetary requirement before someone exercises an enumerated constitutional right.”
And even some on the Left see this for what it is; a shameless attempt by anti-gun politicians and the gun control lobby to go after legal gun owners instead of actually focusing on violent criminals.
“Unfortunately we have very little information, very little data to work with — there have not been that many really high-quality studies trying to look at this issue,” Robert McClelland, a senior fellow in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told ABC News. A tax like the one proposed in California “really punishes people who are high-volume users, who are going to tend to be target shooters or hunters.”
“I don’t know if those people are really the ones that are responsible for most gun violence, but that doesn’t sound likely,” he added. “So an ammunition tax seems like it’s misdirected.”
As for any potential decrease in sales resulting from a tax, according to McClelland, “People who are on the borderline between making a purchase and not making a purchase, to that extent, yes, you would see fewer purchases. I would expect a much larger effect to be people would would simply go to private sales for used handguns and used firearms.”
I’m sure the gun control lobby has an answer for that too. Maybe a ban on private sales or transfers altogether?
I can’t help but wonder what the bean-counters and even reporters at ABC News would think about a special tax on each and every broadcast; something like 10-11% of all the commercial revenue generated, with the proceeds being directed at efforts to combat online disinformation.
My guess is that the network brass would be hollering about unconstitutional attacks on a free press, but I’d be happy to test that hypothesis if any congresscritter would like to conduct an experiment.