It gets frustrating to look at the same circumstances so frequently and feel there is nothing we can do about it. Guns are like that, you know? Your best intentions can’t change the violence afoot in America on any given day. Young black men will be shot to death on the south and west sides of Chicago no matter what you do. Abysmal explosions of violence will erupt in places that should be peaceful. Schools, churches and, apparently supermarkets, are now among them.
And sadly, even as we talk here, there are people pondering suicide by firearm, ending their lives for reasons that are mysterious, but not mystifying. If there’s a gun at hand and a sorely depressed person in the house who knows where it is, that’s all you really need to know.
My friend Tom and I in Philadelphia were talking about this this on the phone this morning and he made a point that we often overlook. We pay a heavy tax for our gun ownership, measured in dead and wounded bodies and in outbursts we would never condone, except that we do as the price we pay for access to firearms almost at will.
That is the problem. We are all paying a steep blood gun tax for our access to firearms. We Never think about it that way, but it’s undeniable. The levy on a society full of firearms is death under a whole collection of unimaginable circumstances. There are no laws to pass that can hope to touch this problem. It exists because of us, because we want firearms more than we want peace. We want firearms more than we want calm, conflicts solved by conversation, whatever.
UC Davis in California has studied this problem in some depth. In 2018, it reports, there were 39,740 gun deaths in the U.S. Sixty percent of those deaths were suicide. Among other chilling statistics, this one: one in three houses in the United States has a firearm. Another, suicides cause twice the number of gun deaths as other kinds of crime. Supermarket slayings and school shoot ups are relatively rare, even though they seem to grab so much attention before something else comes along.
There is nothing we can do to touch this problem until we begin to view it as a function of tax policy. We all have to pay taxes and everyone in elective office seems eager to cut them. What if we think of gun violence as a blood tax and start addressing the problem from that perspective.
There are lots of ways to approach this. The first should be to make it incredibly expensive to purchase a military style firearm anyplace. And those weapons should carry huge taxes as another deterrent to purchase. Ammunition should cost a fortune and be heavily taxed, too. Anything connected with firearms, including holsters and the array of stuff you need if you have one, should be very expensive, too.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution may protect your “right” to have a weapon, but it doesn’t have anything to do with what it costs or how it is taxed.
Maybe you would argue, “Well, wouldn’t that mean only the very wealthy could be armed?” Yes, exactly. I don’t mind if a lot of people up on the top of the economic mountain have weapons caches. It should just strip as much the fortune as it can from the process. Every round fired at a shooting range should carry a high tax, too. That would deter a lot of people from buying rifles just for “fun.”
Cities alarmed about firearms should start taxing them at the highest rate they can muster. You want to pack a Glock 9mm, that’s going to cost you a fortune every single day you carry it. The Supreme Court says it’s okay to carry. But it doesn’t say it has to be so cheap.
That kind of a process would also require lots of record keeping. Everyone would know when you bought a gun and where because the seller would face a fortune in taxes, too. Anyone in the line of possession should face those levies. They should also be reminded of the blood taxes we have already paid for gun ownership in our country. They are substantial and are counted in lives lost and blood shed.
Every sales record should carry the latest numbers of homicides and suicides, just to remind the potential owner of the troubling world in front of her, him, whatever.
Firearms dealers and manufacturers should also face automatic death taxes when their weapons are used for crime and assault. We can’t keep on going down the path where it’s okay to sell deadly weapons and have no consequences attached to their use.
Money talks in America. Make them pay!
It’s not an end to the problem. But it is a start.
Blood taxes are a fine idea!