You Can't Tax Your Way to Less Gun Violence

Every answer to every problem does not lie in a must folder in the basement of some government agency.

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Back in the early days of the Obama administration, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel famously remarked that no politician should let a good crisis go to waste. As an activist liberal what he meant was bad news often provides the impetus for increasing state power. The worse the news, the more elaborate the response can be as the political class rushes around trying to demonstrate to the voters that they are doing something about whatever just happened.

This is especially true in the aftermath of the horrible shooting of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The media explains helpfully that the politicians need to come up with solutions and safeguards, rhetoric fueled by self-interested and self-actualized activists who work on the gun issue and, like sheep, the elected officials respond. Doing something quickly regardless of effectiveness is, it seems, better than taking a slow and methodical approach to create solutions that really work.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

If more rules and tougher gun control laws were the answer, Chicago, Ill.—where Rahm Emmanuel is now the much-beleaguered mayor—would be among the safest cities in America. In fact it's one of the deadliest, with murders and shootings occurring at an alarming and what should be, for Emmanuel at least, an embarrassing rate. The city's liberal political class wants to combat the problem by adopting tougher rules, even when there is no evidence that approach would help ameliorate the problem in any way. At least they can feel good about doing something and get some positive ink to show the voters when re-election time rolls around.

The inanity is not confined to gun laws. Politicians of differing stripes are also suggesting that the best way to respond to the Newtown shooting is with higher taxes. Incredible, I know, but a lawmaker in Missouri has proposed a special sales tax on so-called violent video games—supposedly because they games desensitize children to violence and, therefore, increase their propensity to shoot up school buildings.

It's anybody's guess where the evidence to support this theory exists. There probably exists somewhere the result of some publicly-funded study at some university or government-backed think tank or agency showing this to be true under certain tightly controlled conditions or based on data gathered in some survey so random as to be meaningless. Nevertheless there are those out there who think a tax increase would help stop the violence when all it will really do is put more money into government coffers to be spent unwisely.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines Be Banned?]

Like the federal government, there are many states whose credit-worthiness is about to shatter under the weight of obligations they have acquired over the years. Overly-generous pensions and healthcare benefits for public sector unionized employees are about to break the financial back of states like New York, California, and Illinois—where the political leadership lacks the will to address the problem head on. And they lack the will because it means taking on their most important constituents—the public employee unions—in a fight they know they cannot win and may not even want to as long as they can kick the can down the road until the next time the Republicans are in power.

Using the Newtown shooting as an excuse for a tax increase is shameful, but no less shameful than arguing that tax hikes can reduce the number of obese children in America, stop people from smoking, get people to carpool and be more environmentally responsible, or any other of the bizarre nostrums that have been propagated by what Mrs. Thatcher liked to call "the Nanny State." All they do is feed the beast under the guise of doing "good" when in fact it is the government's virtually unchecked power to meddle in every aspects of a person's life that may be doing the most harm to people and society as a whole. Every answer to every problem does not lie in a musty folder in the basement of some government agency. To act as though it does is to shift the blame for what is wrong, fundamentally, with America. There are too many people looking around for ways to shift the responsibility for life onto someone else. It's an impossible task, at least it is if anyone wants to have the kind of life that would be considered worth living.

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