In the wake of recent gun violence on Paterson streets, today U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., (D-NJ-09) was joined by local community leaders, law enforcement officials and gun violence prevention groups to announce legislation he introduced to prevent gun violence. The legislation - The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act - would prevent gun violence and increase community safety by increasing the federal taxes on guns and ammunition, including closing current loopholes that allow some of the most popular and deadly firearms to avoid taxation and regulation. The proceeds from this legislation will provide an estimated $600 million to law enforcement and gun violence prevention.
"As a former mayor of one of the largest cities in New Jersey, I know how critical the issue of reducing gun violence is to our communities," said Rep. Pascrell, co-Chair of the House Law Enforcement Caucus and member of the Ways and Means Committee. "All across our country, local police departments have had their budgets slashed and been forced to lay off officers, reducing their ability to protect our communities from the scourge of gun violence.
"It has been well over two decades since tax rates were last adjusted on firearms and ammunition, and I believe it is appropriate that we look to these taxes as a way to direct additional resources to law enforcement, background checks and gun violence research. This bill represents a major investment in the protection of our children and our communities, and reflects the long-term societal costs of gun and ammunition purchases in our country."
Gun violence exacts a tremendous price from our citizens, our governments, and the public health of our nation. Recent research demonstrates that firearm injury costs the United States over $174 billion annually, with over $12 billion of this loss bourn by state, federal and local governments. Given that these numbers only include costs post injury and not costs associated with preventing gun violence such as increased law enforcement, community intervention programs, these figures dramatically underestimate the true cost of gun violence to government.
Remarkably, 65% of all costs to government are for intentionally-inflicted homicide or assault. Despite the high cost of gun violence, current federal taxes on guns and ammunition yielded only $514 million in 2012. In contrast, federal taxes on alcohol and cigarettes yielded $7.9 billion and $15 billion.
The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act will increase federal taxes on guns and ammunition to provide stable revenue to fund violence prevention efforts, enforcement of existing gun laws, and gun violence research. Prominent public health researchers from Harvard and Boston Children's Hospital advocate such an approach, which draws on the success that increased taxes on tobacco has had on representing the true cost of smoking, decreasing use and abuse, and providing stable funding to offset the costs to governments and the public of smoking. Given the high costs incurred by governments due to gun violence, an increase in federal taxes represents a reasonable step forward both to address the national crisis of gun violence.
The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act will direct the estimated $600 million in new revenue to programs designed to make communities safer and reduce violence, including: Project Safe Neighborhood Grants; Community-Oriented Policing Grants; Community-Based Violence Prevention Initiative Grants; research into the causes and prevention of gun violence via the Center for Disease Control's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; the National Criminal History Improvement Program; the NICS Record Improvement Program; and grants to encourage schools and districts to implement comprehensive, evidence-based discipline systems to improve school climate.
This legislation has already been endorsed by: the Major Cities Chiefs Association; the Violence Policy Center; the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and its national network of Million Mom March and Brady Chapters and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Council of the Great City Schools, Heeding God's Call, New Jerseyans for Safety from Gun Violence and Ceasefire NJ.
The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act (H.R. 3018) contains the following provisions:
* Increase the excise taxes on firearms from 10%-11% to 20%.
* Increase the excise tax on ammunition from 11% to 50%.
* Include AR-15 lower into the definition of a firearm for excise tax purposes.
* Exempt all US government agencies from tax.
* Maintain the exemption for state and local governments, including police departments.
* Increase the Special Occupational Tax on firearm importers, manufacturers and dealers.
* Include assault pistols in the definition of firearms covered under the National Firearms Act.
* Increase the transfer tax on all weapons (except antique guns) covered under the National Firearms Act (excludes most common guns) from $200 to $500 and index to inflation.
* Increase the transfer tax for any other weapon from $5 to $100 and index to inflation
* Redirect revenue raised by this Act to: 35% COPS; 35% Project Safe Neighborhoods; 10% CDC Research; 5% National Criminal History Improvement Program; and 5% NICS Act Record Improvement Program; 5% and grants to schools and districts to implement comprehensive, evidence-based discipline systems to improve school climate.