If you have a right that’s important to you, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a “plan” for it. She prides herself on her “plans” to overhaul America’s tax system to a more “progressive” model.
As a non-partisan, single-issue organization dedicated to preserving Second Amendment rights, the NRA won’t comment on the merits of Warren’s fiscal schemes. However, we will point out her hypocrisy. While holding herself to be a progressive champion, Warren’s plan to impose steep federal taxes on firearms and ammunition would effectively tax the right to keep and bear arms into a privilege that only the wealthiest elites and politicians could afford to exercise.
Gun owners already pay a significant federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition. The Pittman-Robertson Act places a 10% tax on the sale of pistols and revolvers and an 11% tax on rifles, shotguns and ammunition.
Even though Pittman-Robertson imposes a hefty tax on firearms and ammunition, gun owners tolerate this tax with the understanding that it is for a good cause. The funds are used to promote participation in shooting sports. Pittman-Robertson dollars fund hunter-education programs, the acquisition and upkeep of public hunting land, and construction and maintenance of public shooting ranges.
Under Warren’s “Plan for Gun Violence Prevention,” the candidate claimed, “It’s time for Congress to raise those rates.” Warren would triple the excise tax on firearms by raising it to 30%. Worse, the senator would nearly quintuple the tax on ammunition by raising it to 50%. Unlike a graduated or “progressive” tax, this type of regressive excise tax disproportionately impacts lower and working-class Americans.
For someone who claims to be for “gun safety,” I’m not sure how Warren defends making it more expensive for law-abiding Americans to practice the safe exercise of their rights. How does making it more difficult for a responsible concealed carrier—who wants to practice safe firearms handling—make anyone safer? How does making target practice more expensive for a hunter—who wants to safely and ethically harvest game—make anyone safer? The answer to these and many other examples of how such a tax would impact gun owners is that they won’t improve public safety at all because safety isn’t the real goal.
The real goal is much simpler—to limit your ability to exercise your fundamental Second Amendment rights.
Even worse, the revenue generated by Warren’s regressive gun tax wouldn’t be used to promote shooting sports or firearm-safety training. According to Warren, it is intended “both to reduce new gun and ammunition sales overall and to bring in new federal revenue that we can use for gun violence prevention…” Astute gun-rights supporters know that with anti-gun politicians, “gun-violence prevention” (like “common-sense gun safety”) is merely code for gun control. Under her plan, gun owners would pay an oppressive tax that would then be used to suppress them further.
Sensing that gun owners would rightly reject her tactics, Warren tried to distract individuals towards her desire to “[increase] taxes on gun manufacturers.” Don’t be fooled by her suggestion that only the “gun industry” would suffer her tax upon gun owners. Only politicians and their billionaire backers will avoid the downstream costs of their mountaintop taxes.
Given the magnitude of Warren’s proposed tax increase, gun owners can be sure that a severe tax on firearms and ammunition manufacturers would be passed onto the consumer.
Aside from the practical implications, Warren’s plan is unconstitutional. Many politicians have proposed taxing guns and ammunition with the aim of restricting access to these items, but most are clever enough to conceal this goal. In her plan, the senator stated that her tax was intended to “reduce new gun and ammunition sales overall.” Warren has admitted that the tax is designed to curtail the exercise of a constitutional right.
Such a tax is impermissible. The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a tax on printing supplies used in publication as an illegal restriction on the First Amendment right. By using taxes to curtail protected conduct, Warren is either ignorant of the law or willing to blatantly ignore it—neither is acceptable.
For someone so proud of her own “plans,” one would think Warren would be a better planner. This much is clear: Her “progressive” tax is fundamentally oppressive and will deter safety while undermining law-abiding gun owners—although that might just be part of her plan.