Plan B: Taxing to Death the Firearms Industry

Posted: Mar 11, 2013 1:06 PM

If you can't ban it, tax it into being unattainable. As efforts to reinstate a federal ban on modern sporting rifles at the federal level fail to gain traction, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are looking for another option to get their gun control goals fulfilled with a little help from the IRS.

The proposals range from the modest -- a proposed 5 percent tax in New Jersey -- to the steep -- a proposed 50 percent ammo tax in Maryland. The bills follow efforts to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and expand background checks, measures that have had mixed success at the state level.

The taxes -- much like so-called "sin taxes," like those on cigarettes -- serve a dual purpose. They can deter buyers, while using the extra revenue for favored programs. In this case, the sponsors want to direct the money toward mental health services, police training and victims' treatment.

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.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry already pays out more than $4 billion per year in federal excise taxes. Why? Because they're a successful industry with loyal customers who can afford to purchase products and services. Should the government start overtaxing the industry, the overall revenue from the industry will fall due to fewer customers being able to afford firearms products. Not to mention, kill well paying jobs and benefits for those who work in the industry.

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