Tax All The Things!
It should come as no surprise that some of the more liberal members of Congress want to increase a tax, but it really looks like they haven’t thought this one through very much.
I have my doubts that the tax would pass constitutional muster, but assuming that it does for a moment, here is the unintended consequence that I see.
Americans have a constitutional right to own firearms, just as they have a right to vote and speak freely and so on. If it’s alright to tax guns and ammunition, not just as a matter of course, but in an effort and at a level intended to keep people from exercising their rights, than presumably the same is true for abortion or gay marriage and so on. You can still exercise your rights, a lot of people just become unable to afford to do so, predominantly the poor of course.
The average cost of a first trimester abortion is between $350 and $550, which is more or less what a decent middle of the road handgun sells for new. Given that the gun tax is expected to collect $600,000,000 per year, and the yearly number of abortions in the US far exceed the number of handguns sold, a massive 50% tax on abortions would rake in hoards of cash.
In the case of the gun tax, the sponsors say that revenues would be directed to efforts to reduce gun violence or some such nonsense. Once again we can draw a parallel with abortion, and direct the billions collected through our 50% abortion tax on sex education and free condoms and such. How many liberals would be okay with that? Damn few I would guess.
Now, I don’t believe the tax would hold up in court. It’s clear that it is permissible to tax guns and ammunition, but it’s also clear that guns and ammunition can’t be banned. Presumably a tax intended to keep people from acquiring guns is also a no no. Additionally you can’t take a step without hearing how voter ID laws are targeting minorities because they are the most likely demographic to not have ID and not be able to afford to get one*.
In the case of a $350 handgun, the tax would come to $175 alone, which almost certainly prices the poor out of the market and prevents them from exercising a right.
In case after case, the courts have consistently ruled that while the government can charge a fee to get a permit for a demonstration, that fee cannot be so high as to price people out of being able to get a permit. If a precedent were established affirming that the government can tax rights out of existence, or tax the poor out of being able to exercise them, the sky is the limit, prepare for a whole host of things to be taxed into oblivion when the government decides they don’t particularly like a right.
*In most of the states that have moved to require ID in order to cast a vote, the fees that were previously attached to state ID’s were eliminated, making the cost very close to zero.