On the evening of September 11, the news of an active shooter at a local Walmart made its way around Tyler. In light of this, I will be talking about nationwide gun control. Economists have been asking the question for years: should gun ammunition be taxed the same way cigarettes are taxed? And the answer is no, but before I get into that, I must explain what a sin tax is.
According to Investopedia, a sin tax is levied on specific goods such as alcohol, tobacco, or other “morally hazardous” products to try and deter people from engaging in socially harmful behaviors.
But a bigger question is if sin taxes work. They do not, or not to the desired extent. Research from the economist showed that for every percent increase in taxes, sales went down .5 and .6% for tobacco and alcohol respectfully. These items were the most responsive to sin taxes. And that’s not a lot.
So why would we think to put it on gun ammunition? Well, that is easy. Since the most responsive items to sin taxes responded at all, lawmakers have considered putting a 50% increase on ammo. This, in turn, would lead to about a 25% decrease in sales, but that does not mean it wouldn’t lead to bigger disadvantages.
“Selective sales or “sin taxes” that are too high create black markets, increase criminal activity, and move the sale of otherwise legal products outside the reach of law enforcement.” the Heritage Foundation said. “High cigarette taxes, for example, create markets for untaxed illegal cigarettes, which require large-scale criminal enterprises to supply.”
Basically, by trying to stop very little of the population from buying guns, we are opening an opportunity for black market dealers to expand their practices. Which does not help anything in the gun control debate because people who are unwilling to pay the taxes might be more than willing to buy from the black market. The numbers of people who have guns won’t actually change, but the sources of illegal guns will get bigger.
If we were going down the “how to reduce gun violence road,” the simple answer would be to reduce easy access to dangerous weapons. Background checks without loopholes, waiting periods, and just reinstating the assault rifle ban would prevent so many mass shootings. That’s according to the Prevention Institute, but it’s also common sense.
So no, it isn’t necessary to tax gun ammunition the same way cigarettes are taxed because it won’t work. Society would be in more danger, and there are many better options for reducing gun violence.