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Senator Reid’s New Tax on Guns

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Posted by David S. Addington

 

 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wants to tax your gun rights. His new legislation charges you a fee that is in essence a federal tax on selling or giving away your firearm, and he lets Attorney General Eric Holder decide how big that tax will be.

Senate Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Barbara Boxer of California have introduced a raft of gun control legislation (S. 374, S. 54, and S. 146, respectively). Senator Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, rammed the legislation through committee in record time—not even bothering to issue the customary committee reports to explain the bills—and Reid combined the bills into a single gun control bill (S. 649). Firearms owners across the country and others who care about their right to keep and bear arms should keep a close eye on the Reid legislation. Your rights are under attack.

Gun rights have been important since before there was a U.S. Constitution. In Federalist No. 84 of May 28, 1788, Alexander Hamilton dismissed the idea of adding a bill of rights to the Constitution, saying “why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?” But the people of the several states had a healthy skepticism of the proposed central government, and their skepticism extended to the potential for that new government to infringe upon their right to firearms.

Nearly a third of the delegates to the Pennsylvania ratifying convention dissented from ratification because the new Constitution did not sufficiently protect individual rights. On December 18, 1787, they published the 14 amendments they thought necessary, the seventh of which was:

That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and their own state, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals…

In Virginia, it was a majority rather than a minority that had doubts about whether the Constitution sufficiently protected individual rights. Ultimately, the Virginia convention ratified the Constitution, but it recommended on June 27, 1788, early adoption of a bill of rights, to include: “That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state….”

Advocates of the people’s gun rights ultimately carried the day in the federal Congress, and the states ratified what is now known as the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

Title I of the Reid gun control bill purports to “fix gun checks.” The proposed “fix” in section 122 of S. 649 is to take away an individual’s right to sell or give away a firearm to another individual unless, in most cases, the individual (1) uses a licensed importer, dealer, or manufacturer to make the transfer of the firearm and (2) pays a fee to that importer, dealer, or manufacturer to make the transfer. The individual transferring the firearm is not actually receiving a service; the federal government is receiving the service. The service the government gets is a background check on the intended recipient of the firearm, because the law requires the importer, dealer, or manufacturer to run the recipient through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Forcing the individual to pay for the government-mandated service, which is in fact a service to the government, is in essence a federal tax on the individual. And the amount the individual pays as a fee is not limited by the legislation; section 122(a)(4) of the Reid bill enacts a new section 922(t)(4)(B)(i) of title 18 of the U.S. Code to grant to Attorney General Eric Holder the power to set the maximum fee by regulation.

The Reid gun tax is but one of the dangers of the Senate Democrats’ gun control legislation. Senator Reid has the gun control bill on the fast track through the Senate. Those who care about their gun rights should remember Obamacare: The faster and harder Senators try to ram legislation through the Senate, the more you know the legislation is bad for America.

 

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