As people who are shot to death have thir rights to bear arms infringed, there is no valid Constitutional argument against gun-violence tax and mandatory insurance. Programs already exists in Chicago and Seattle. Los Angeles is considering a mandatory insurance program, and several national laws are in consideration. This article simply summarizes the current status.
This article is a sidebar to the thorough analysis, "A Benthamite Solution to Gun Control" (Yofiel, 2015).
Chicago's Gun Violence Tax
Cook Country, which includes Chicago, led the way to offsetting gun violence cost with a local tax. Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle proposed a gun violence tax in October 2014 "with no apologies" saying the money would go toward offsetting the high cost taxpayers shoulder as a result of gun violence. The tax was approved and took effect on 4 May 2013 ("Cook County Gun Tax Starts: $25 'Violence Tax' Per Firearm Purchase In Effect As Of Monday," Huffington Post, 1 April 2013).
Seattle's Gun Violence Tax
Seattle modeled a $25~$50 annual 'gun violence tax' on Chicago's tax. Officials say the direct medical costs of treating 253 gunshot victims at Harborview Medical Center in 2014 totaled more than $17 million. Taxpayers paid more than $12 million of that. City officials estimate the new tax would bring in $300,000 to $500,000 a year, but gun shop owners told council members those numbers were inflated. The NRA sued to prevent the tax. ("Seattle Sales Tax: City Institutes Tax On Firearms And Ammunition Is Now Facing Lawsuit," Daily Caller, 31 August 2015).
After success in Los Angeles, I emailed text drafts to several dozen attorneys over the weekend. The following Tuesday, a judge dismissed the NRA suit. (see "Judge upholds Seattle 'gun violence tax,' dismisses NRA suit," Gene Johnson, Washington Post, 22 December 2015).
Los Angeles' Mandatory Insurance and Tax
Two city council members, Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian, proposed a gun violence tax, with expected revenues of $1 million a year, in October 2015. "If you want to have a gun, you can have one, but you have to pay an extra tax that pays for some of the societal costs of guns," Koretz said, defining 'costs' as suicides and mass shootings ("Los Angeles gun tax under consideration by City Hall", Los Angeles Daily News, 25 October 2015).
In the week after I first posted a draft of this text to the Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles supervisory committee considered a requirement for gun owners to buy insurance ("L.A. County considers requiring gun owners to buy insurance," Abby Sewell, Los Angeles times, 15 December 2015). At that time, I had not yet proposed a larger violence tax with compensating credit so that everyone could at least buy one gun and still pay less. At that time, the Los Angeles county council committee asked county lawyers, public safety and mental health officials to report back on proposed gun control measures, along with other options to "further prevent violence and improve safety in the workplace and public settings." As part of that request, they asked for an analysis of ways to "adopt stricter gun control restrictions and penalties," including further background checks, a potential local tax on guns and ammunition, and an insurance requirement for gun owners. The insurance policy would be similar to car insurance, making payments to offset the costs to victims and public agencies if the policy-holder's gun is used to injure or kill someone. So far this has not gained alot of public attention, but opinions in the press are not unfavorable ("Like vehicle ownership, require gun registration and insurance," Statesman Journal, 10 December 2015).
National Reducing Gun Violence Act
On 2 November 25, Rep. Nydia Velazquez announced the H.R. 3830 Reducing Gun Violence in our Neighborhoods Act, which would impose on any firearms manufacturer, producer, or importer a federal $100 tax, unless it is by U.S., State , or local governments for police or other law enforcement purposes ("New Bill Would Force Americans To Pay $100 Tax On Every Gun," Emma Colton, Daily Caller, 27 October 2015).
The proceeds would enter a Gun Violence Reduction and Mental Health Counseling Trust Fund. From the trust fund, 50% would be supplement block grants to community mental health services, and 50% would supplement block grants to the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.
The act would also require a passive identification standard for all firearms sold in the USA, such that any firearm could be identified by a mobile or fixed reading device. The identification method must allow owners to maintain their full right to privacy by not broadcasting the ID, and to legally own firearms with privacy under the 2nd and 4th Amendments, but simultaneously enable police and law agencies to track lost or stolen guns. It must be tamper-proof, and designed so that it could be added to existing firearms. Carrying an unidentified weapon would result in a fine of up to $1,000, within three years of the act's passage. Stolen firearms must be reported within 48 hours, or there will be a fine of up to $10,000. The ATF will provide a database of lost/stolen firearms within one year of the act's passage, and other agencies must report lost/stolen firearms within 7 days.
On 30 October, the act was referred to House Energy and Commerce, which referred it to the Health subcommittee. On 23 November, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.
National Firearms Risk Protection Act
Proposition HR2546 was proposed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (12th District, New York) on May 21, 2015. "We require insurance to own a car, but no such requirement exists for guns," Maloney said. "The results are clear: car fatalities have declined by 25 percent in the last decade, but gun fatalities continue to rise" ("House bill would require gun owners to have liability insurance," The Hill, 29 May 2015.).
As it stands, this act prohibits firearm sale and purchase by a person not covered by appropriate liability insurance. When purchasing a firearm, the buyer must present a qualified liability insurance policy, except if the firearm is for use of any federal or state department, agency, or subdivision thereof. The non-compliance penalty will be not more than $10,000, and it will take effect 6 months after the bills enactment. A qualified liability insurance policy must provide liability insurance covering the purchaser specifically for losses resulting from use of the firearm while it is owned by the purchaser. It must be issued by an insurer licensed or authorized to provide the coverage by the State insurance regulatory authority for the State in which the purchaser resides. On June 16, 2015, the house judiciary committee approved the measure as constitutional and referred it to the subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, for future discussion as to how it may be of greatest benefit.
In the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernadino in December 2015, the lack of public data on gun control finally emerged into public scrutiny, even reaching discussion on radio ("Looking At Violence In America With A Financial Lens," National Public Radio, 17 December 2015). Sanjeev Sriram wrote, "Rather than having meaningful dialogue about what risk factors were discovered and how new knowledge could save lives, panicked members of Congress passed the Dickey Amendment which stated, "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control." Since then, NRA lobbyists and their political allies have successfully maintained this policy, even though its author, former Congressman Jay Dickey, has expressed deep regret about the amendment and the subsequent dire shortage of public health research on gun violence" ("To Congress: CDC Research on Guns Will Save Lives," Huffington Post, 14 December 2015).
Efforts to change the annual budget for 2016 failed. Gun deaths now equal or exceed vehicle deaths, but gun violence research funding is far less than one hundredth as much ("Guns kill as many people a year as cars but research into vehicle deaths gets $830M in federal funding, gun violence gets a paltry $5M," New York Daily News, Stephen Brown and Cameron Joseph, 17 December 2015).
Rep Mike Thompson states, "Research could have been continued on gun violence without infringing on the rights of gun owners, in the same fashion that the highway industry continued its research without eliminating the automobiles. it is my position that somehow or someway we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached. Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution" ("Chairman Thompson Statement on Gun Violence Research in Omnibus," 16 December 2015).
While some may wish to criticize particular officials for the lack of better government data on gun violence ("Inside the NRA: the officials keeping gun control laws off the US agenda," Chris McGreal, the Guardian, 14 December 2015), it is not the intent of this article to victimize a person or group, but rather to call altogether for change.
A practical consideration is the extent of available data on those who have purchased guns, which would limit the extent of HR2546 to weapons sold in the last 10-20 years. First, there are loopholes in existing requirements such that private and some tradeshow sales are not reported. Second, while federal law requires firearms dealers to maintain a list of all sales indefinitely, the NICS destroys records within 24 hours. So at this time there exists no centralized federal database of all gun sales, which could be fixed by the complete background check now under consideration. There are also state variations. ""Maintaining Records & Reporting Gun Sales Policy Summary" (Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 9 July 2013) provides a comprehensive analysis.
Hillary Clinton, on a 25% Gun Tax
Note: Hillary Clinton, who is also a Yale attorney, has supported a 25% gun tax since 1993: "FLASHBACK: Hillary Clinton Supported a 25% Gun Tax (VIDEO)" (Progressives Today, 8 September 2015).
About the Author
I am a retired Oxford philosopher. American citizen, and have no affiliations with any political or reliigous organizations.