We have been hearing so many ideas about what to do following the deadly rampage in Newtown, Connecticut last week. Ideas range from gun control to better handling of mental health. Good! This is the discussion we need to have.
I want to tackle one part of this debate right now - gun control. I have heard so many arguments as to why gun control won't work. I have also seen a lot of strawman arguments made against it. One segment of these arguments really got me thinking.
On Facebook I had a few friends comment that "cigarettes and alcohol kill, yet they are still legal". This is true. But let's also look at something these deadly items have - extra taxes. Both items prices are heavily inflated because of taxes added to them. Take cigarettes. Over the past couple of decades the price of a pack of cigarettes has more than doubled. This is due to taxes being added on. Those taxes go to things like prevention through education and help with associated health care.
Perhaps its time to take a similar route for firearms. Therefor I am proposing a new tax called the National Firearms Tax. Every time someone buys a firearm or ammo there is an additional tax added to it. These taxes will work much like the taxes on alcohol and tobacco in that they go into a special fund designated only for uses in firearms.
So what uses will this include?
First off we need mandated safety courses for owners of firearms. All to often we hear of these "accidental" shootings involving a loved one. Either the gun owner didn't know there was a bullet in the chamber or a child finds an unsecured gun. These are some of the most tragic stories and they seem to be happening at an increased rate.
I actually laid out the premise of the "gun safety courses" just last week, before Newtown happened. It was the story of a 7 year old being "accidentally" shot by his father. This self proclaimed "gun enthusiast" had removed the clip from his .9mm handgun, but didn't realize there was one in the chamber. As someone who used to be an avid target shooter, I always knew where all my ammo was. Some good education may have made sure that the father did too and 7 year old Craig Allen Loughrey would be around today.
Up next we need a much better national database and system of background checks. Loopholes must be closed and that will increase the demand on local officials to complete these checks. That of course needs money, in a nation already strapped for cash, so let's put some of this new tax money to use for that.
One argument I can get behind in the aftermath of last Friday is putting armed guards in schools. These people need to be highly trained in the use of firearms as well as dealing with things like hostage situations. With those kind of requirements, these people will also have to be appropriately paid. Again, that means money and this tax is a perfect source of revenue to help offset these costs.
So how much money might we see from this tax? Well in 2008 Americans spent $4.8 billion on firearms. If we did a 25% tax on firearms, that would generate $1.2 billion in income.
We have 98,817 public schools, K-12 in this nation. Say an armed guard for each school costs an average of $50,000 per year. That leads to a cost of $4,940,850,000 per year to have a single arm guard in each school. That is also a very conservative number,. We also need to think of things like extra personnel to cover sick days and other absences. So if we want to go with the common idea of having armed guards in schools, we will also have to figure out ways to pay for it. Now the tax rate I proposed above won't cover it, but it will help offset these costs.
It seems to me that a proposal like this will have a two-fold effect on helping. First it will prevent these "stock piling" gun nuts from loading up on weapons. Secondly, it will provide us with much needed revenue to offset the costs to help prevent more tragedies. It isn't a silver bullet (for lack of a better word) to address the problem, but it is a good starting point. Hopefully we can institute something like this.