Guns and Ammo as a Taxable ‘Sin’
Religion & Liberty Online

Guns and Ammo as a Taxable ‘Sin’

ammoNeed to justify a new sin tax or raise an existing one? Adam J. Hoffer,William F. Shughart II, and Michael D. Thomas recently explained in U.S. News and World Report how it’s done:

Claim that consuming some good or engaging in some activity contributes to ill health or harms the environment. Argue that “experts” know what choices consumers should make better than the consumers themselves know. Finally, don’t forget to select items for taxation that only a minority of the population buys, but that you and the majority of voters do not. Be a paternalist.

That seems to be the steps lawmakers are taking in recent proposals to add firearms and ammunition to the list of  items worthy of a “sin tax.”

California Assemblymember Roger Dickinson (D) recently introduced legislation which he said would “help address the issue of gun violence in California.” The legislation would impose a five cent tax on each bullet sold in the state. “Screening young children for signs of mental illness and addressing any issues early on is the key to a healthier and more productive adult life. A limited tax on ammunition is a small price to pay for better mental healthcare for children in our state,” said Dickinson.

In Massachusetts, Rep. David Linsky (D) is proposing a 25 percent sales tax on ammunition and gun purchases while in Nevada Assembly Majority Leader William Horne (D) is drafting a bill that include a sales tax of $25 per gun and 2 cents for each round of ammunition.

At the federal level, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), proposed a bill that would impose a 10 percent tax on “any concealable” firearm with the revenue used to help fund a national gun buyback program. The bill is still in committee.

As Erika Johnson asks, “Why is it, exactly, that the responsible people who take it upon themselves to bear arms — creating positive externalities in the effort — need to be deterred or punished?” The reason, of course, is that the lawmaker aren’t really trying to deter criminal behavior but to punish legal behavior—owning firearms—of which they disapprove. It used to be that sin taxes applied to behavior that most everyone agreed, even the “sinners”, were vices. Now a “vice” is any action a liberal lawmaker doesn’t like. They hate the “sinners” and therefore feel justified in taxing the “sin.”

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).