TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Staudt Presents Guns and Taxes at Duke

StaudtNancy 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.

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I think this is a thoughtful approach--make gun owners compensate for some of the associated costs--that offers a middle ground between regulation and inaction.

Posted by: michael livingston | Jan 31, 2014 5:36:19 AM

Interesting idea. Federal excise taxes are levied on alcohol and tobacco manufacturers and importers. Why not levy taxes at about the same rate (so as to be non-discriminatory) on gun manufacturers and importers?

Posted by: eli bortman | Jan 31, 2014 6:37:46 AM