Thursday, January 30, 2014
Nancy Staudt (USC) presented Guns and Taxes (with Thomas Griffith (USC)) at Duke as part of its Tax Policy Seminar hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:
The federal and state governments have long taxed commodities, such as alcohol, gas, cigarettes, guns and ammunition. Firearms, however, have recently taken on a unique status in the lexicon of taxable goods given the Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), which held the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a handgun in the home. For purposes of this paper, we assume that Heller does not create an outright bar to taxing weaponry, but does require clearly articulated economic and policy justifications to pass constitutional muster. Accordingly, we examine three possible rationales and uncover strong arguments both for and against taxation. Ultimately, we conclude that policymakers should operate much like insurers: they should subsidize the safe use of guns and tax high-risk users.