Quote of the day—Steve Chapman

In the end, criminals will never pay the tax, law-abiding citizens will rarely pay it, and the county will get little revenue. The only purpose it will serve is to let upstanding gun owners know their local government views them with disdain. The feeling, for good reason, is mutual.

Steve Chapman
October 13, 2012
Taxing bullets criminal: Penalizing the blameless for gun violence
[A case can be made that taxing a specific enumerated right such as firearms and ammunition is illegal just as taxing churches is illegal. This has yet to be challenged in court and I look forward to the discussion. It will be another front the anti-gunners have to fight on and one for which the First Amendment gives us strong guidance. And NFA 34 can be brought into discussion in a manner that has a better chance of success than a direct challenge to machine gun restrictions.—Joe]

5 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Steve Chapman

  1. I agree with your logic as far as the equivalence of taxing firearms and taxing churches; however, it is no longer thought that taxing churches is wrong. Instead, the modern position is that the government can tax anything it wants, and that it merely gives an exemption to churches so long as they play by the rules. That “so long as” provision is something we can all thank Bob Jones University and their racist clinging to a “no interracial dating or marriage” position for.

  2. Taxing books and newspapers is legal. Isn’t that the same as taxing our first amendment rights?

  3. I think I’m going to have to defer to a tax expert on these points. I know churches were off limits almost “forever” but taxes on books and newspapers appears to be an interesting counterpoint to my claim.

  4. You CAN tax the sale of books, magazines, and newspapers as commodities (sales tax), and you CAN levy business taxes on them as for other businesses. You cannot tax someone for speaking or writing freely (although the income of a writer is fair game under the income tax), nor can you have special taxes just for books, magazines, or newspapers that aren’t applicable to other types of businesses that do not involve free speech. In other words, they aren’t taxing free speech, they are taxing the business operations of companies and individuals who happen to be in the business of free speech — under exactly the same rules they tax the business operations of a teddy bear factory or a building contractor.

    However, SCOTUS has also previously stated that, while taxes and fees MAY be collected for the government to do something related to the expression of a right, they MAY NOT charge more than is actually required to fund the ACTUAL government effort you are asking for. The specific case involved an unenumerated right (marriage and the fees for marriage license fees), and it was ruled that the fee that was permissable could only be enough to cover the cost of the actual marriage license & registration program — it COULD NOT be used to provide revenue to cover the cost of OTHER operations of teh clerk’s office.

    Now that Heller and MacDonald have affirmed that the 2nd Amendment refers to an INDIVIDUAL right (especially since it is an actual enumerated one), I wonder what the end result would be for FFL fees, SOT taxes, firearms excise taxes, NFA registration taxes, CCW fees, and all the other “gun specific” taxes and fees out there. . .

  5. @ubu52

    If you are talking about sales tax on guns, then yes, that’s the same thing. However, we have to deal with many more taxes on guns than just sales tax. Geodkyt has already given a good explanation of taxing the business of selling books and magazines, but not taxing the exercise of speech.

    In addition to sales taxes, if you want to make certain firearms under the NFA, you have to pay a making tax of $200, or if you wish to buy most NFA firearms, you will have to pay a $200 transfer tax. There are other taxes, but this is the most glaring example of the Special taxes levied on firearms. There can be no question that this tax was intended to eliminate the ownership of these types of firearms (or at least their ownership by any but the super-wealthy). There are also plenty of revenue generating taxes such as those listed by Geodkyt.

    A parallel to these would be charging a tax anytime you wrote a bit of political speech. We’ll keep the tax small, but we need to raise funds to make sure that we can fund literacy programs. Maybe 10 cents per paragraph in your posts here and elsewhere (Including letters to the editor)–more if you write a blog or publish a book. Of course, if you want to publish pamphlets in numbers of more than 100 in a single run, or you want to use a bullhorn, billboard, or other method capable of reaching and persuading lots of people in a short amount of time, you will have to purchase a NPA tax stamp (National Political Activist).

    Is my second example a stretch–maybe a little, but even the first proposal would have a chilling effect on the exercise of speech. You aren’t allowed to do anything to chill the exercise of the 1st Amendment rights, so there seems little reason, from the text, to allow the chilling of 2nd Amendment rights.

    Perhaps Joe went too far with the analogy to churches in declaring guns to be sacrosanct and protected from taxation (And I for agreeing with the premise). Churches were traditionally sacrosanct (until the modern interpretation that they merely have an exemption as long as they behave) because the state was to have no authority over the church. (Arguments raged between denominations and governments as to whether the church was the state’s equal or superior for much of Western history.)

    Guns are not an institution that should be protected from any sort of taxation (e.g. income taxes based on the sale of them, sales tax on their purchase, etc.) But the purchase, carrying, and use of firearms is the exercise of the 2nd Amendment right, and so these exercises should not be targeted with specific taxes that have a chilling effect, whether it is intentional or not. This is the standard we use for all other fundamental rights.

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