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Zaretsky: Enacting Gun Sin Taxes is ‘Gun Safety Theater’ That’s Worse Than Doing Nothing

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(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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…Ari Freilich of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence told ABC News that it’s not the tax, but the tax revenue that matters. “We’re essentially not looking to punish anyone to deter anyone from purchasing weapons… we’re asking a very profitable industry to pay a modest surtax on their profits to help fund the work that is effective at preventing the enormous harms caused by their products.” 

He argues that since revenue from the federal tax on guns and ammunition is largely used for wildlife conservation efforts, an analogous state law could “remediate the effects that the same products have on human populations and families, as well as wildlife.” 

In that case, higher taxes on guns and ammunition would be like a soda tax—high enough to generate revenue for desired programs, but not necessarily so high that people won’t pay it.

Freilich’s argument: While higher taxes on guns and ammunition would not discourage weapons purchases, the revenue they generate could fund gun violence prevention and education programs, like educating kids and parents about the dangers of firearms and the importance of safe storage. 

To me, these taxes are kind of like a clear backpack or a metal detector: They might help stop gun violence in a school, but if research is any guide, they might not.

But to the parent of a school-aged child, these taxes and security product purchases might look like action. They may make a parent feel something is being done. 

Something like gun safety theater that pretends to protect children?

To me, that’s worse than nothing.

— Renu Zaretsky in Excise Taxes on Guns and Ammo: Sin Taxes That Don’t Prevent the Sin

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