Whenever there is a mass shooting “incident” a predictable series of news stories follow about 1) how easy it was for the shooter to obtain his weapon of mass destruction and 2) how this isn’t a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue.
The first type of story will show how the shooter walked into their local arms dealer, er, I mean, gun store, filled out all the forms, went through the background check (if applicable) and proudly walked out with a new AR-556 automatic pistol and probably a free box of ammo the arms dealer, er, I mean, legitimate gun store owner threw in as a sweetener to “buy it today”.
You know what you never read about? How much that weapon cost.
So I did a little research on the weapon of choice for the Colorado shooter (the supermarket one, not the movie theater one or the ones at the high school) and found that he probably paid somewhere between $700 and $800 for it. It has a list price of $899 but other than the manufacturer’s website no one sells it for that price.
I’ve sold mediocre furniture and appliances for more than that.
We’ll be generous and say he bought it for $750 (plus that free box of ammo throw in). With the Colorado Springs sales tax of 8.2% he’s out the door at $811.50.
Too cheap. Way too cheap.
We’ll get back to price in a moment.
The second type of story will detail how politicians, Republican politicians to be precise, will prattle on about how this is a mental health issue, that “mental health is a large contributor to any type of violence or shooting violence” and that tougher anti-gun laws are unconstitutional, unnecessary, and will mean that only criminals will have guns.
They will then implicitly or explicitly say that while it’s a problem that needs to be addressed, well there just ain’t the money in the budget to address it with.
Oh you Repugnicans, always having the reason for the problem ready at your fingertips but never wanting to push the button that fixes it.
So in the spirit of compromise, a concept that has gone out of style in politics today, I’d like to offer a proposal that just might make everyone happy.
Tax the shit out of guns, then turn around and use the money raised to fund mental health clinics.
The actual amount of the tax can be debated but I think perhaps a sliding scale based on the type of weapon. Single shot rifles, maybe just 15%. Revolvers 20%. On and on up depending on the ammo capacity and firing rate of the weapon till we reach military style automatic weapons which, though I believe they should be illegal for the general public to own, could be taxed at 200%-500%.
There’d be no Second Amendment issue, the government isn’t preventing you from owning a gun just saying that if you want one you have to pay the taxes on it. There’s already sales tax on the purchase so the concept of the government imposing a tax on that so called constitutionally protected product is legally valid.
Likewise the validity of taking all money raised and earmarking it for one purpose is a well established doctrine. Gasoline taxes are only used for road building, driver’s license fees are directed to highway safety projects, there are special taxes on televisions to offset the cost of their eventual recycling or on refrigerators for CFC removal.
If you are worried that this is would be a regressive tax that unfairly affects poor people well buddy it’s not poor people who buy large capacity automatic weapons. If they own a gun at all it will likely be on the smaller capacity, single shot end of the gun spectrum and thus less tax burdened.
No our brand of American mass murderers tend to be middle class, just the socio-economic group I’d be targeting with this tax. They could still afford to get that AR-15 but it’s gonna put a serious hole in their bank account, one that just might make them think twice about the purchase.
Look I have no illusions that such a tax would stop a person who truly wants to commit mass murder or who wants to commit “suicide by police” from buying that gun. That last Visa bill is going to go unpaid one way or another. But it might be the straw that breaks the gun manufacturer’s back in terms of mass production of the gun for non-military use. If the gun store owner can’t sell it because it’s bottom line price makes it too expensive for the middle class “gun enthusiast” to own, then the shopkeeper is not going to order as many which in turn will mean fewer being produced which in turn will mean that particular market will dry up.
In the meantime high capacity rapid fire automatic weapons that are sold will at least be doing some measure of good by funding the mental health services that might just turn a potential mass murderer into a productive, not destructive, human being.
Chris Rock had a similar idea. This one’s okay by me as well.