Should Gun Owners Have To Pay A “Sin Tax”?

posted on May 19, 2021
Peter Kaminski courtesy Flickr

Why do legislators in anti-gun jurisdictions so often try to “balance the budget” on the backs of law-abiding gun owners?

That’s the question some are asking now that lawmakers in California are considering an extra 10% tax on handguns and 11% tax on long guns, gun parts and ammunition. California A.B. 1223, sponsored by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D), would create the additional excise tax and earmark the money to fund grants for social programs.

Called the “Gun Violence Prevention, Healing, and Recovery Act,” the measure makes no bones about blaming lawful gun owners, makers and retailers.

“Firearms, ammunition and firearm precursor parts sold by licensed dealers and vendors of these products contribute to high rates of gun violence, and broader human, mental health and economic harms,” the legislation states. “Gun dealers, for example, are the leading source of firearms trafficked to illegal markets, often through straw purchases, as well as negligent losses.”

This last line is a blatant lie. Study after study has found that criminals get their guns by stealing them, by buying them illegally on a black market and so on.

While the measure states that the new tax is a “modest and reasonable excise tax on sellers whose lawful and legitimate commercial activity still imposes enormous harmful externalities on California’s families, communities and taxpayers,” it ignores an important fact about taxes. No matter what a retailer sells, if taxes are raised, that increase is nearly always passed on to the purchaser—in this case only law-abiding gun buyers, since criminals usually get their guns in other ways.

“The bill would require that the revenues collected be deposited in the Gun Violence Prevention, Healing and Recovery Fund, which the bill would create,” the legislation says. “The bill would continuously appropriate monies in that fund to the Board of State and Community Corrections to provide [California Violence Intervention and Prevention] grants, thereby making an appropriation.” 

The legislation would also remove the $1.5 million grant limit, meaning anti-gun groups could receive millions of dollars each, robbed from the pocket of the state’s gun owners.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) baseline budget included funding of $9 million to the CalVIP program and recent revisions include an additional $100 million to expand the program.

“Gun violence will not end on its own,” Levine said during a recent hearing of the Assembly Public Safety Committee. “We must take responsible action to end the public health crisis that is gun violence in our state, in our nation.”

Such efforts to tax gun owners for what is not their fault invariably raises the question: Why should Americans in any state who are simply trying to practice their Second Amendment-protected rights have to pay exorbitant taxes because some politicians want to punish them? Yet, such taxes have been proposed in several states and even as recently as last year on the federal level.

And, note that such schemes to punish gun owners while raising revenue are far from new. All the way back in 1993, Hillary Clinton embraced such an idea during congressional testimony when she endorsed a 25% tax on firearms and increasing the fee charged to be a licensed gun dealer to $2,500.

At the time, Grover Norquist, then-president of Americans for Tax Relief, explained Clinton’s proposal quite succinctly: “The Left is now seeking to tax guns out of existence,” Norquist said. “The Second Amendment makes it difficult to legally ban guns, but Hillary has led the way to explaining you can achieve the same thing with high taxes.”

As NRA-ILA reported on the proposal: “It is unjust to saddle law-abiding gun owners with special taxes to fund social service programs. Such a measure makes it more expensive for law-abiding citizens to exercise a constitutional right, and discourages them from practicing to be safe and proficient with their firearms for purposes such as self-defense, competition and hunting.”

Such laws also are inherently elitist, since they impact low-income Americans the most. Consider a single mother on a limited budget living in a rough neighborhood. It might already be difficult for her to afford a $400 or $500 handgun to protect herself and her family. Punishing her by adding another 10% to the price is no way to recognize her Second Amendment-protected rights.

In the end, such schemes are simply thinly veiled attempts to deprive the most-vulnerable residents of California of their Second Amendment rights. And they come at a time when record numbers of Americans are realizing they need them most.


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