Tax on gun sales worth considering
The social costs of gun ownership in the US have reached staggering levels. According to a Johns Hopkins University study, US emergency room and in-patient medical visits for gunshot wounds alone cost about $2.8 billion a year; it’s $45b if you count lost wages. Mother Jones magazine estimated the annual total costs from gun violence, including medical, law enforcement, trials and other costs, at $229b.
California assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) on Monday introduced AB 18 to establish a tax – at an unspecified rate – on handguns and semiautomatic rifles sold in the state, one that might expand to include a tax on ammunition.
But is it a wise tax? AB 18 would direct the new revenues to the state’s existing $9.2m California Violence Intervention and Prevention Program that offers grants to community organisations mounting effective gun-violence prevention programs. It might be more pragmatic to make the distribution of the proposed tax revenues wider and include medical facilities that bear some of the costs of caring for gun violence victims, but fundamentally it is a good idea to tie the revenues to specific gun-related uses so the money doesn’t disappear into the general fund.
The legislature should give this proposal serious consideration, and take care that whatever final form it takes will survive the inevitable legal challenge from the gun lobby.