The Real Pain Of A Federal Gun Tax

posted on November 3, 2015

While the city of Seattle is facing backlash and litigation for its decision to punish gun owners (and manufacturers) with a burdensome “gun violence tax,” some in Congress appear determined to go much further. A federal bill recently introduced by Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., is so onerous that it could be considered “Seattle on steroids.” 

H.R. 3830, otherwise known as the “Reducing Gun Violence in our Neighborhoods Act of 2015,” would impose a stiff $100 tax on every firearm sold. The resulting revenues would go to the Department of Justice to be disbursed in various initiatives meant to support mental health care, as well as “anti-violence programs”—and you’re on the same wavelength as us if you read that last bit as “anti-gun propaganda.” Not only would you get ripped off, your gun purchase would support the cause of chipping away at the Second Amendment. Velázquez is quoted as saying, “If making guns more expensive means fewer end up in commerce, I’m happy with that result.”

Velázquez is quoted as saying, “If making guns more expensive means fewer end up in commerce, I’m happy with that result.” Her implication that hurting firearm sales is somehow accidental—simply collateral damage—is profoundly disingenuous. Indeed, ensuring that “fewer end up in commerce” appears to be the entire point behind this legislation. 

Purchasers of a fine English hunting shotgun or a competition rifle may not bat an eye at a $100 upcharge. But for those who are only able to afford the bare minimum, this could be an insurmountable obstacle to gun ownership. When Rep. Velázquez speaks passively of guns not being sold, what she actually intends is to keep them out of the hands of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans. We have addressed the encouraging phenomenon in Detroit in which residents of low-income areas frequently employ guns to defend themselves from rampant crime. Do we really want to significantly increase the difficulty facing citizens like these in affording a firearm?

Of course, slapping a $100 tax—more like a fine—onto every gun sold is far from the only thing that H.R. 3830 would do. From Forbes

Velazquez says the bill will also strengthen federal reporting requirements for stolen or lost guns, establish a national database for missing firearms and utilize technology so that the origin of recovered weapons can be identified, assisting law enforcement investigations. A provision in the bill would require all gun owners to report any stolen weapons within 48 hours. Failure to do so would result in a $10,000 penalty. Currently, federal law requires firearms businesses holding a federal license to report lost or stolen guns but not individual gun owners. 

Everything listed in this bill is a punitive measure—from the passive tracking technology meant to disrupt firearm manufacturing and drive up prices, to the “failure to report” penalty meant to convince the typical American that safety just isn’t worth the financial risk. Rep. Velázquez can’t do much to keep guns away from rich people, but the poor are easier pickings. 

When Seattle adopted the “gun violence tax,” they were emulating an experiment launched in Chicago: Cook County’s 2013 measure, which was followed by rising crime rates. But that’s the thing—to politicians like Nydia Velázquez, results don’t mean as much as optics. If it sounds like a good idea, it doesn’t matter that it has been empirically proven to be an abject failure. And it doesn’t matter that the neediest Americans are the ones who will pay the price for its failure.

Use Your Power!

Tell your lawmakers that H.R. 3830, otherwise known as the “Reducing Gun Violence in our Neighborhoods Act of 2015,” is an ineffective measure that will do nothing but disarm the poor. Call (202) 224-3121, or use NRA-ILA’s “Write Your Lawmakers” tool here.


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