Death and taxes
America is not going to shoot our way out of the gun violence problem, and that’s what these people are calling for. And I think that’s dangerous and I think that will lead to more of us being killed by bullets.
Although I don’t have – or even particularly like – children, the Newtown shooting has been just too much for me. Over the past few days, I’ve found myself paralyzed, staring into the middle distance, choking back tears. It’s thoroughly senseless. I mean, they were kids.
Perhaps the worst part – well, other than that it happened at all – is knowing that nothing will change, most likely. Seven months ago, the Onion posited that even a horrific uptick in gun deaths wouldn’t make any difference. We like our guns too much; we like the feeling of power, even if it means living in a “perpetual state of abject horror”. We have like 300 million guns in the country, and our history with the 2nd Amendment and guns means it’s unlikely we can pull a Japan and stuff them back into Pandora’s box.
Let’s be honest. We won’t repeal the 2nd amendment. Or even, I dunno, clear up the language a bit? Cracking down on illegal firearms does little when it’s so easy to obtain perfectly legal ones. We barely know who’s selling the damn things. And the usual corners will continue howling that the answer to our gun violence problem is more guns, not less. As if a paranoid, heavily armed society is a civil one.
Hell, I’ve shot a dozen different guns and I totally get the appeal. They’re thoughtfully designed, exquisitely well-made, and timeless, which can’t be said for most of the crap we usually handle. When you squeeze the trigger and for a brief instant feel in control of thunder and physics and death: it’s exhilarating. They’re fun. That’s not going away.
So maybe we won’t be able to meaningfully control guns.
But we absolutely should make it really hard to get bullets.
Chris Rock famously suggested that a single bullet should cost $5,000.
That’s actually a brilliant thought. But I think I have a better one.
We should tax every bullet sold. My twist: it gets higher with every gun death in our country.
The day we pass the law, it’s $0.00 per bullet. But for every gun death, every bullet will immediately cost a dime more. Each.
This sounds low, but at the rate people are dying from guns it’ll be over $3,122.40 per bullet after just one year, if 2007 is any indication.
Sound too harsh now? Make it one-tenth of that: an extra penny per bullet per gun death. I won’t waste the time to bend over for a penny, but a box of 9mm rounds will still cost over $15,600 after twelve months.
Sure, carve out some exceptions. No tax for police departments, maybe. Shooting guns is totally fun, so maybe if you purchase and fire a bullet at a licensed shooting range there’s no tax. But if you want to take that bullet outside the building it’s back to the cost of the bullet, plus $3,122.40 or however high it is that day. Better buy it now: it’s not getting cheaper.
I see a few benefits. First and most obviously, bullets would get more expensive and therefore harder to acquire. At the very least, as Chris Rock noted, you’ll have to think hard before you pump $30,000 or so into someone. If a black market for bullets develops, we should crack down on it with the same fervor that we do drug offenders. Or Lawn Darts.
Next, it’ll raise money. I say split it 4 ways:
- Gun safety training programs and hardware like trigger locks for owners
- Body armor for police
- Health care for shooting victims
- Mental health care for anyone that wants it. (Maybe everyone in this country because JESUS TAPDANCING CHRIST how can a reasonable society accept so much death?)
Next, there’s no 2nd Amendment issue. No one is taking your guns away. Collect, carry, and worship them all you want. I don’t care. It’s when you want to use them with bullets that I care and when society should ask you to pay a little more.
Finally, it’s incremental. A gradual tax would be easier to pass than a massive initial uptick.
But mostly it would be a daily reminder to gun owners what their freedom is costing us. Every time you buy bullets, you’ll know exactly how many people have been killed since the last time you bought them. A little extra monetary cost just so people are made aware of the staggering human cost.
Hell, make a giant counter like the national debt clock. “Today your bullets cost an extra: $1008.40” Tick. Tick. Tick. “$1008.70”. Tick.
My hope is that it gives people pause. Even if it’s just a little. We won’t change how people feel about guns, at least not quickly. But perhaps a gradual, growing reminder of the price of so many guns might change a few minds in the long run.
(Just about all links are via Jason Kottke, who has been on fire lately).