Proposal to tax guns to aid to gun-crime victims

By: - August 9, 2019 7:30 am

A proposed Wisconsin bill would tax firearms and use the funds to pay for services to gun-crime victims, who are barred by federal law from suing firearms manufacturers for their injuries.

State Rep. Jimmy Anderson

State Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg) and State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) are circulating the bill for cosponsors; a similar bill from the 2017-18 session was introduced but never got a committee hearing or a vote. 

The bill imposes a one-time tax equal to one-half of 1% on the manufacturer’s list price for every gun a manufacturer sells to a retailer or wholesaler in the state; resales are not taxed, according to a spokesman for Anderson.

The draft language doesn’t specify what sorts of services to victims of firearms would be covered by revenues from the tax. The tax would be administered by the state Department of Revenue. In a message to colleagues seeking co-sponsors, Anderson and Taylor said the victims’ fund would be housed at the state Department of Justice.

State Sen. Lena Taylor

An analysis for the Rand Corp. last year found that only two states, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, put special taxes on firearms or ammunition beyond the regular sales tax. Seattle, Washington and Cook County, Illinois, both have put additional taxes on firearms and ammunition, the Rand report stated. 

The report discussed special firearms taxes as a tactic to stem gun purchases as well as as a general revenue-raising mechanism. It did not mention any attempts to use local or state firearms taxes to offset the costs borne by gun crime victims.

In a message to colleagues seeking co-sponsors, Anderson and Taylor said that under National Rifle Association pressure, Congress in 2005 exempted gun manufacturers from liability for gun deaths. 

“As a result, victims of gun violence are unable to seek damages from gun manufacturers,” the lawmakers’ memo states. “This places incredible financial burdens on victims and their families, many of whom face exorbitant medical bills and other unforeseen expenses.”

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary.