Fri, Aug 22, 2014 ●
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The Universal Notebook: It's time to tax guns, ammo

Opinion

The Universal Notebook: It's time to tax guns, ammo

Walking the dog the other day at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland, I was treated to the incessant bam-bam, bam-bam-bam, bam-bam, bam-bam-bam-bam, bam of someone targeting shooting somewhere off to the west. At least I hope they were just target shooting.

You can’t discharge a firearm in Maine within 300 feet of any residential dwelling without the owner’s permission and there is no firing range or rod-and-gun club in the vicinity, so I concluded that someone must be having a merry old time blasting away in their own field.

As gunfire is not a part of everyday life here in the suburbs, however, all those gunshots got me thinking. My first thought was whether Cumberland had any noise ordinances that might restrict such profligate firing. The neighbors must be real pleased. Then I started thinking more broadly about innovative approaches to gun control.

I strongly support the Obama-Biden plan to reduce gun violence as a reasonable start to the long-term goal of ridding our country of this scourge altogether. And don’t go getting all wet and weepy about the Second Amendment. Even the most conservative member of the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Anton Scalia, understands that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is not absolute, that society has every right to impose reasonable limits on it. And, oh baby, are we going to impose reasonable limits.

Personally, I think it would be reasonable to restrict private gun ownership to firearms that can only fire six bullets before reloading. But the real answer to reducing guns and gun violence may require using the most powerful force in these United States of America – the almighty buck.

Maybe what we need is a good, stiff tax on guns and ammo. Not a new idea, but a good one.

“If a bullet cost $5,000," comedian Chris Rock quips in Michael Moore’s gun-control movie "Bowling for Columbine," “there’d be no more innocent bystanders.”

If Obamacare’s individual mandate passes constitutional muster as a tax, then certainly we should be able to use the power of taxation to reduce the number of guns and gun deaths in this country.

“Guns don’t kill people, bullets do,” the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-New York, observed back in 1993, when he proposed a 10,000 percent federal tax on bullets, such that 20 hollow-points would have cost somewhere around $1,500.

There is no earthly reason why firearms should be less regulated than automobiles. So let’s slap a hefty excise tax on a $1,000 Bushmaster AR-15, maybe another grand or two. Too excessive? We tax tobacco products that heavily because of the social harm they do, so why not firearms?

The National Rifle Association can’t possibly object, since a tax on guns and ammo in no way infringes on Second Amendment rights. But maybe we throw the NRA a bone anyway, perhaps exempting the first weapon a citizen registers. After that a high tax on every additional weapon and a requirement that, like the family car, every gun be re-registered and taxed annually as long as it is owned.

Yes, some folks with personal arsenals might refuse to comply. But that’s OK. No need to shoot it out with them and confiscate their guns. Just prosecute them for tax evasion.

There are simply way too many guns and way too much gun violence in America. We need to get weapons of war out of private hands. Taxing guns and ammo would be one way to accomplish that.