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How to Pass Gun Control Legislation

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(Mr. Joseph has led the effort to pass two federal laws, the Country of Origin Labeling Act and the American Automobile Labeling Act)

Even though the vast majority of American people support gun control, the Senate will never provide 60 votes for gun control legislation. The only way to pass legislation in the U.S. Senate is through budget reconciliation. The Senate filibuster effectively requires a 60-vote super-majority for the passage of most legislation in the Senate, but budget reconciliation provides a process to prevent the use of the filibuster and thereby allow the passage of a bill with simple majority support in the Senate.

Reconciliation bills can be passed on spending, revenue and federal debt limit laws. In other words tax and spending bills only need 50 votes to pass the Senate.

Gun Control as a Budget Bill

Representative Carolyn Maloney (D, New York) and Senator Edward Markey (D, Massachusetts) have recently introduced the Gun Violence Prevention Research Act, a bill to fund a study by the Center for Disease Control on firearms safety and gun violence prevention. This bill has a price tag of $50 million that puts it in the budget reconciliation bill category. The Gun Violence Prevention bill should be a part of much larger, more comprehensive gun control-budget bill.

I propose a 500% tax on assault weapons. If we can't ban them, we can tax them to death. Two hundred and two years ago Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in the landmark case of McCulloch v. Maryland wrote that, "the power to tax involves the power to destroy."

In addition to taxing weapons, the federal government can also appropriate billions of dollars to buy back assault weapons and fund an advertising campaign to encourage gun owners to give up their military-style weapons.

We could similarly impose a very high tax on large capacity magazines. The federal government could impose a tax of $300 on a magazine that holds 30 bullets, $1,000 on a magazine that holds 100 bullets, encouraging gun owners to stick with magazines with ten bullets.

Funding Background Checks

Congress can pass a law requiring that all gun purchasers, including those between private citizens, to pay for a background check. For example, the U.S. government could charge $50 for a background check, a fee for a service. We pay for driver's tests, why not charge for background checks? This revenue could be used for gun safety programs, or to fund the buy-back program for assault weapons.

Congress can also enact a tax on gun owners who do not carry liability insurance for their weapons. The Supreme Court used the power to tax to uphold the Affordable Care Act's fine on those who did not have health insurance (Congress later repealed the health insurance mandate). A tax on uninsured gun owners could be $500 per year or more. Every state mandates that car owners have liability insurance because cars injure people. Guns kill and maim as many people as cars do. Mandatory liability insurance for gun owners is fair and reasonable because guns are an exceptionally dangerous product.

Congress could also impose a stiff tax on bullets, doubling or tripling the cost of ammunition.

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Chairman, Made in the USA Foundation, economist and lawyer, author of ten books and hundreds of articles.
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