Monday, April 08, 2013

Maybe we should use economics to deal with the excess of guns?

How about an excise tax on guns? It would be higher for assault guns, higher for guns for which owners had large magazines, higher for automatic pistols in private hands. There would be no public policy that would seek to reduce the use of guns for hunting and target shooting, nor for collectors of antique firearms, so there need not be an excise tax on these items. The excise tax could be applied on sale, or on an annual basis for all gun owners.

We could also put excise taxes on ammunition to be applied on sale.

How about requiring that gun owners have liability insurance that would be used to reimburse anyone harmed by their guns? Insurance companies could set the rates. (The excise tax could be used to indemnify gun wounded and the families of gun killed people when the gun owner was a scofflaw who had not kept the insurance up to date.

There would be followup on gun owners who did not pay their gun excise tax or who let their gun insurance lapse. Game wardens and police could check the proof of tax and insurance payments on seeing someone with a gun, as could the staff of shooting ranges and hunting reserves; if an undocumented gun was found it would be impounded until the owner appeared with proof of ownership and compliance with the law.

Of course, any criminal who used a gun in a crime would be severely punished. So too, anyone who was involved in a gun accident with an uninsured gun or one for which the taxes had not been paid would also be subject to severe legal penalties.

One advantage of this approach is that it would not be vulnerable to charges of infringement of rights or contravention of the second amendment. People would seem to have no more right to tax free weapons than to tax free homes, and no more right to own a gun without liability insurance than to drive a car without liability insurance.

My guess is that people would turn in a lot of guns rather than pay the taxes and insurance!

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