Some policymakers and advocates say that state-level gun taxes, which mimic a federal tax on guns and ammunition that has been in place for decades and is mainly used to fund wildlife conservation efforts and education programs for hunters, could raise revenue to fund lifesaving violence prevention programs and help offset the the $280 billion annual price tag of gun violence in America, reports ABC News. However, critics argue that new gun taxes could make law-abiding buyers of guns and ammo instead seek out private sellers or underground marketplaces.
Restrictions on private firearms sales vary state to state and those sales have proved difficult to track. Measures put forward in Cook County, Illinois; California; and Seattle have been contested by Republican lawmakers who see the bills as unconstitutional and ineffective. Research compiled by Rosanna Smart, an economist at the RAND Corporation, found that some 40 percent of inmate respondents among adult male detainees in Cook County Jail in Chicago acquired firearms through means other than purchase or trade. According to RAND: “Overall, researchers currently have little empirical evidence indicating how taxation would influence firearm-related outcomes, such as violent crime or suicides, or establishing how taxing firearms or ammunition would affect firearm prices, the supply of firearms, or defensive gun use.”