Tax on gun sales worth con­sid­er­ing

The Press - - Opinion -

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.

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