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.