The idea behind sin taxes is nothing new; they have long been a favored method for lawmakers looking to raise revenue on the backs of behaviors that they oh-so-munificently deem to be vices — alcohol, tobacco, and gambling have been longtime targets and proposals for taxing junk food are the newest hotness — and subsequently trying to direct that revenue toward their preferred programs. In this fiscally wanton age of red ink, moving to deter people from specific behaviors or at least forcing them to pay a higher price only seems to be gaining in legislative popularity — despite their reliably ineffective, regressive, and special-interests-fueled results.
Responding to the latest round of public budget “crises,” policymakers around the country have begun reviving an old, but not necessarily good idea with added enthusiasm—taxing “sin.” What better way to raise revenue than to find something that your neighbor buys or an activity he engages in that you don’t like and tax it? …
In addition to being robust revenue-raisers, the orthodox justification for sin taxes was that they would reduce the costs smokers, drinkers, and gamblers impose on others—drunk driving, exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, and losing the family paycheck at the craps table. …
Nowadays, however, sin tax proponents have shifted gears by arguing that taxation is mainly aimed at compensating society for the drains sinners impose on the public healthcare budget and reducing the harm consumers do to themselves. With this new push, the limits of what defines a sin steadily are being expanded.
And so, of course, you knew this was coming: The latest item/behavior that progressives perceive as a societal vice? Firearms, obviously. Fox News reports that, as a part of the recent wave of gun-control proposals, legislators at both the federal and state level have been floating ideas for sin taxes on guns and ammunition, claiming that the added revenue will be directed toward mental health services, police training, and/or victims’ treatment.
At the federal level, Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., proposed a bill that would impose a 10 percent tax on “any concealable” firearm. The revenue would be used to help fund a national gun buyback program. The bill is still in committee.
At the state level in California, Democratic state Rep. Roger Dickinson last month introduced a bill to impose a 5-cent tax on every bullet. …
Massachusetts state Rep. David Linsky is pushing a 25 percent sales tax on ammunition and firearms. Maryland state Rep. Jon Cardin has introduced a bill imposing a 50 percent tax on ammo, and an annual $25 gun registration fee.
And according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, Assembly Majority Leader William Horne is pushing a draft bill that would include a $25 per gun sales tax, in addition to a 2-cent tax for every round of ammunition.
Which is all very interesting, because I’m pretty sure that the legitimate and law-abiding citizens who would largely be paying these taxes, are not the ones responsible for gun violence. Why is it, exactly, that the responsible people who take it upon themselves to bear arms — creating positive externalities in the effort — need to be deterred or punished? I’m with these guys:
But firearms groups say a “sin tax” on firearms wrongly punishes law-abiding gun owners.
“If anything, gun owners ought to be getting a tax rebate for helping reduce crime,” said Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.