Did Detroit Just Pass a Bullet Tax and Mental-Health Mandate?

posted on December 6, 2018
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Fox2 in Detroit reported that the “Detroit City Council approved a ‘Bullet Bill’ gun control resolution” unanimously. “The resolution limits ammunition amounts that can be bought while requiring a mental health background check on buyers of ammo in Wayne County,” said the news report.

This factual news report was then picked up and rewritten by many online news sources that then, as so often happens, misunderstood what actually happened.

The Detroit City Council did approve this resolution. Nevertheless this proposed legislation still will have to be passed by the Wayne County Commission. To become law it would have to be approved by a committee before passing a majority vote by the Commission.

“Right now this resolution is not scheduled for a committee hearing,” said Jim Toth, director of public information for the Wayne County Commission. “It is a proposal from one of our commissioners, Reg Davis.”

Toth couldn’t even put his hands on text of the proposed legislation. He said it is likely just an idea presented by Commissioner Reggie “Reg” Davis, of the 6th district.

Regardless, the Michigan Legislature has barred any such local legislation: “A local unit of government shall not impose special taxation on, enact or enforce any ordinance or regulation pertaining to, or regulate in any other manner the ownership, registration, purchase, sale, transfer, transportation, or possession of pistols, other firearms, or pneumatic guns, ammunition for pistols or other firearms, or components of pistols or other firearms, except as otherwise provided by federal law or a law of this state.”

“Right now this resolution is not scheduled for a committee hearing. It is a proposal from one of our commissioners, Reg Davis.”
It seems that Davis isn’t even aware that a state law prevents him from passing such a gun control package. Davis is simply a Wayne County official pushing an agenda who hasn’t done much research. His official profile says he “is a radio icon who was driven to public service after his brother, Vito, was gunned down and killed in the city.” Too bad he hasn’t been driven to do a little more reading.

Davis didn’t respond by press time to media requests, which is a shame as it would be interesting to hear him explain how, even if the county could pass such a tax and other restrictions, his proposal would stop people from simply crossing a county line to buy ammunition. Also, it would be telling to hear him explain what he means by the mental-health check provision. Would he be for searching local residents’ social media accounts, and to thereby attempt to use citizens’ First Amendment rights to restrict their Second Amendment rights? Would a county official simply be able to decide, based on their own judgment, whether someone should be allowed to have the Second Amendment rights? Does he really believe that would pass a constitutional court challenge before any honest judge?

This sort of tax is not completely novel. It has been tried before, so we asked Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for firearms manufacturers, about this line of attack on our freedom.

“We can understand people want to do something to reduce crime in their community. But taxing the sale of ammunition will not promote public safety,” said Keane. “Instead, it will place an undue burden on both federally licensed firearms retailers and law-abiding citizens exercising their constitutional rights. Seattle tried doing this and it failed. Consumers shopped elsewhere avoiding the tax and criminals were still able to illegally obtain ammunition. This idea is like taxing pharmacists filling patients’ prescriptions as a way to try and stop a drug dealer on the street corner. It just won’t work.”

Davis does at least understand that people cherish their freedom. He said to Fox2: “We are not attempting to destroy your right to bear arms. “[We want to] put taxes on that ammunition and use those funds to teach urban American folk about the importance of bearing arms and how to become a responsible gun owner.”

If that’s really what Davis wants then he should promote courses taught by NRA trained instructors; he should support safety programs run by the NRA and so on. Nationally, the percentage of gun accidents has fallen substantially over the last few decades as gun sales and the number of Americans who carry concealed have greatly increased. This has occurred in large part because of NRA programs and outreach. Davis, though he might be well-intentioned, has a lot to learn.


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