gun control

The latest and in this case particularly heart -rending mass killing has re-ignited the gun control debate. Though I own a shotgun and enjoy target shooting and the occasional hunting trip, we have to do something about a situation in which any madman with a gun can load up with thousands of bullets. Yes, guns don’t kill people people kill people, but guns make it WAY easier, and huge magazines full of cheap bullets make it easier still.

So, a simple proposition: a tax on bullets. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, but gun violence imposes extremely high costs on society. A stiff tax on bullets would make is harder to casually acquire enough bullets to kill 20 six year olds. A box of .223 rounds, the kind used to kill children at Sandy Hook, can be bought online for $9. Let’s quadruple that price.

Some might say this would not work, but if economics has claimed anything for the last 30 years, anything, it’s that small tax increases have dramatically large effects. For example, we are told all the time that a very slight increase in taxes on the wealthy will kill job creation and cause capital to fly overseas; that it will crush the entrepreneurial spirit and stifle growth. Imagine then the effect that a stiff tax on bullets would have!

We have similar taxes on alcohol, on gasoline: why not tax bullets? Right now I can goo buy staggering amounts of ammo for amazingly cheap. I can stock up for the coming zombie apocalypse or the approach of black helicopter sor whatever nutty fantasy I like. Gun owners are always claiming that the solution lies in using guns responsibly. Well, making bullets more expensive would certainly discourage random, indiscriminate, thoughtless  shooting. A tax on bullets would be easy to collect. It would make people stop and think. It might deter them, It might slow them down. We can literally make people pay a high price for violent anti-social fantasies.

All of those things would be good outcomes; not perfect, but good. We’ve tried doing nothing at all, and it isn’t working.




  • there is already an 11% excise tax on ammunition.

    how would you tax reloaders?

    but such tax increases would stop the mentally ill/disturbed. the problem isn’t with the law-abiding but rather criminals. The criminals won’t be stopped by an increased tax, they’ll find a way to obtain ammunition just like the do with firearms
    “small tax increases have dra­mat­i­cally large effects” actually it is large increases in the tax rate that have a major effect. small increases don’t have such an effect.

    the only people this will affect will be the law-abiding, not those you want to stop.

  • Daniel Rotelli wrote:

    Taxing bullets punishes those who wish to practice far more than it would ever dissuade the one time lunatic. All this tax would do is push responsible firearm ownership out of the price-range of the average Joe. If you’re going to own a gun, you need to practice all the time or you’re just going to be dangerous. Making it expensive just cuts down on practice. Accidents will go up.

    If someone is going to gun down a bunch of people and then kill themselves, do you really think that the early withdrawal penalty on their 401k is going to stop them? They know they won’t be alive the next day, so they can afford any price, pawn any possessions, run up any credit card, and spend whatever it costs to do their carnage.

  • Simple–waive the tax for ammunition purchased and expended at licensed target ranges.

    As far as I can tell, practice would not have made Adam Lanza nor James Egan Holmes any less less dangerous. What might have made them less dangerous was not being able to pick up 100 rounds as casually as picking up a carton of milk at the 7/11

    Is there an NRA response, other than “the kindergarten kids should have had guns?

  • I find this argument entirely specious. It’s true that laws against counterfeiting, and the secret service, fail to stop all counterfeiting, and laws against shoplifting fai to stop all shoplifting, and people still roll through stop signs, That fact that a law or social measure is less than 100% effective is really not a good argument against the measure.

    The Aurora shooter, and Adam Lanza, were mentally ill. making bullets harder for them to get would have deterred them, I find the inconvenience to the law abiding a small price to pay for the lives of the innocent. If the high price of ammunition deters the casual amassing of large amounts, that sounds good. You don’t kneed 100 rounds to hunt a deer.

    It would be a simple matter to waive such a tax for rounss purchased and expended on the premises of a shooting range.

  • Credit to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who suggested taxing ammunition in the early 1990s.

  • Chris Rock seems to agree with you:

    And you know you have a good idea if Chris Rock agrees with you.

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