Tax incentives for gun safes a point of unity

Dave Martin

Everyone should have a gun safe. If you can’t for some reason, you should have some other means for securing your firearm when not in use.

However, words are easy. At a time when prices for everything is increasing, it’s kind of hard to tell someone to take money to buy a safe when most of their cash is going to pay for food. You need more than words to encourage that kind of thing.

In Tennessee, a bill seeks to provide a sale tax exemption to make it easier for people to acquire gun safes. Interestingly, people on both sides are backing the bill.

So last year the Memphis Democrat tried a different approach: She introduced a bill exempting from state sales tax the purchases of gun locks, gun safes, and other safety devices.

A permanent sales tax exemption had failed in the past, but a one-year sales tax exemption passed last year with bipartisan support. Through June 30, the state is waiving the 7% state sales and 2.5% local option tax on sales of firearm safety and storage items. This year, Kyle introduced a bill to make the exemption permanent.

“I want to assure you, I am not against the Second Amendment,” Kyle said in an interview, adding that her family owns guns. “After many years of talking and drawing attention to the issue, this is a step in the right direction. This is a way to tee up safe gun storage.”

Nearly every related special interest group agrees on the need for gun owners to store their firearms securely when they are not in use. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the nation’s largest association of pediatricians, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry, concur that the best secure storage is a three-tiered approach. If firearms are in a home, they should be stored unloaded and locked—for example, in a gun safe—with ammunition stored in a separate locked location.

The problem is and has always been with mandates. Telling people they must store their guns a certain way, regardless of their individual needs, is a gross violation of the Second Amendment. Mandatory storage laws would make many secure guns they might actually need in an instant. When you hear glass shattering at the back door at three in the morning, it’s not a great time to have to fumble with a key or the combination to a safe.

Yet no one disagrees that gun safes are bad things. Everyone should have some kind of safe for securing a firearm.

By killing the tax on it, you’re encouraging people to get them without mandating it. That, coupled with pressure from gun owners, and you’ll start to see more and more people securing firearms when not in use.

Frankly, it’s the kind of thing that we should be doing in all 50 states.

If you want a behavior to change, mandating that change isn’t the way to make it happen. It can be encouraged far more easily. Couple that with education and you’ll see more of what you’re hoping to see. Will it be 100 percent? No, but mandatory storage laws aren’t 100 percent, either.

What it will be, though, is a far better path forward in a country that prides itself as the Land of the Free.