Most of us have waited a lifetime for life to return to normal. Two mass shootings in consecutive weeks remind us that no matter how much we missed in the past year, not everything that is “normal” is okay. These horrific events and the circularity of the gun control debate that went with them have unfortunately become routine. The order is predictable, commonplace, and common. But only in America.
On March 16, a 21-year-old suspect in Georgia bought a 9mm pistol and started his rampage in and around Atlanta that same day, killing eight people. On March 22, another 21-year-old suspect shot and killed 10 people in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado using an SR-556, an AR-15-style semi-automatic pistol that he had bought a few days earlier. Both gun purchases were made from licensed retailers.
Is there anything we could do that could have slowed, changed, or prevented these two young, likely mentally ill, people from receiving their guns? That is a rhetorical question. The problem with the list of possible alternatives is not that it is too small, but that it is too big.
“Our problems are man-made; therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants, ”is part of my favorite address by President John F. Kennedy, which was given on June 10, 1963 at American University. He spoke about diplomatic differences between us and the former Soviet Union. This generational and dangerous crisis has been frightening and expensive for the US
Fighting the Cold War for almost half a century required infrastructure. Today, after four years of eagerly waiting for “Infrastructure Week” to actually take place, we have a new President preparing to get a major infrastructure bill through Congress. And today people think of roads, bridges, pipes and communication networks again when the word is used. But the military is also an infrastructure, like the enormous US military that grew in the post-war years to fight the Soviets and the threat of communism.
If you stick to the dictionary for a moment, the word “infrastructure” means “the basic, underlying framework or characteristics of a system or organization”. Our schools, public safety systems, health networks, and a good list of other things fit that definition just as well.
A modern information system for checking all persons who try to buy a firearm commercially is also an infrastructure. Right now this system is underdeveloped and underfunded, but it is definitely a fundamental, fundamental necessity of this country. Support for properly building, implementing, and investing in them has a similar level of support as roads, schools, and broadband funding.
How does President Joe Biden plan to fund his $ 3 trillion infrastructure plan? In a word, taxes. How will he expect to pass a new tax plan through a Senate that needs 60 votes to pass something? Through the budget vote process that the Democrats used a few weeks ago to pass the American bailout plan.
A universal background check system should be part of the infrastructure package and could be paid for by an increase in federal excise taxes on weapons and ammunition. And that with 51 votes in the Senate. As the political class continues to debate the virtues and dangers of filibuster, I recommend that the Democrats get on with the people’s business.
Yes, I believe America’s arms crisis was more damaging than the Cold War. Maybe it wasn’t that expensive in dollars, but far more Americans have died from domestic gun violence. And the “artificial” aspect of our globally unique weapons problem was not created by a phantom in a distant land, but by the men who live next door. Presumably these men are taxpayers.
The federal excise tax on arms and ammunition brought in $ 653 million in 2019. In April 2015, Mother Jones, in collaboration with Ted Miller of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, published The True Cost of Gun Violence, estimated at $ 229 billion a year. Americans instinctively want to devote all of their energies to arguing how this large number can be reduced. However, increasing the smaller number is the easier task. Let’s do that.
Our gun violence problem is not a pothole or major lull, but it’s just as obvious. If we could look at it as a tax issue like any other infrastructure need, maybe we could actually make some progress.
Michael Leppert is an Indianapolis public and government affairs consultant and writes his thoughts on politics, government, and anything else he sees on MichaelLeppert.com.