Streetwise Professor

February 9, 2013

Bootleggers and Baptists, CA Ammo Tax Edition

Filed under: Guns,Politics — The Professor @ 4:38 pm

In its utterly cynical effort to expand control over its citizenry and exploiting the Newtown massacre, California is proposing a slew of restrictions on gun ownership, on top of its already onerous restrictions.

When I was at the range last week, I saw a couple of ordinary looking Springfield Armory 40 cal semiautomatics that had “Not Legal For Sale in California” emblazoned on the box.  I asked the clerk why they were banned in CA.  He said: “The color?  Who knows?”

Back in the 50’s “Banned in Boston” was a great way to juice sales of racy paperbacks.  Now “Banned in California” is doing the same thing for firearms.

But back to the new proposals. One of them is to put a $.05/bullet tax on ammunition. Because, of course, “sin” taxes always work so well.

Let’s consider cigarettes, shall we?  New York has deemed ciggys a major sin, and has imposed a punitive tax on them. To what effect? 61 percent of cigarettes in NY are smuggled, thereby enriching organized crime. Well played!

So what will the bullet tax do? It will be like a shot of steroids to the illegal trafficking of ammunition (and magazines and banned weapons) in CA.  And who will have the comparative advantage in supplying that market? Organized crime.  Drug gangs.  MS-13, etc.

A classic example of the Bootleggers and Baptists phenomenon, where bluenose control freaks and psychopathic criminals are in a symbiotic relationship.  And who gets f’d?  Normal, law abiding people doing nobody any harm.  In CA, normal folks just looking to protect themselves will be disarmed, criminal gangs will be empowered, and dipshit politicians will break their arms patting themselves on the back for their moral superiority.  (Resisted using an Onanistic metaphor there. Such self-control.)

It’s at times like this when the ending refrain from this song seems so fitting:

True fact: I am wearing a tee-shirt with that logo (the cover of Rancid 2000) as I write this, and the poster from that album is right in front of me.

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  1. One thing not mentioned here, but which just screams at me, is that this kind of a tax incentivizes larger, deadlier rounds. I just went to and priced a random box of 375 .22LR for $25.80 and a box of 50 Atomic Ammo .357 magnum rounds at $59.59… at those prices, a single .22LR round costs $0.069 cents each while a .357 magnum round costs $1.192 cents apiece; a $0.05 cent tax per bullet would mean a 72.67% rise in cost on .22LR ammo and a 4.195% increase in .357 magnum ammo. I imagine that a 4% increase will only make handgun owners grumble, while adding nearly 3/4 again to the price of rounds will probably just make people not go plinking. This being said, without even getting into the calculus that drives individuals into the black market, wouldn’t it make more sense to tax by-the-box as opposed to by-the-bullet?

    Comment by Jason L — February 11, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  2. Excellent point, Jason L. This is a phenomenon that Milton Friedman and others pointed out with respect to drug laws: they encouraged production and consumption of more powerful narcotics, by lowering their relative price. This is also related to the “shipping good apples out” effect, where the quality of produce in areas where it is grown is lower than in the areas that import it: transport costs are the same for good and bad produce, so the relative price of good produce in lower in importing than growing regions.

    But silly us. We’re acting as if legislative geniuses understand economics.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 11, 2013 @ 11:16 am

  3. I went to a gun store over the weekend for the first time in maybe four months and it could have been a Russian grocery store in the late 80’s. The display cases were absolutely bare. The staff was chewing the fat and playing with a Capuchin monkey. I aksed how long they thought it would take to re stock and the answer was a few months with the clock starting when the Feinstein Bill goes away.

    I never thought it was the least bit fair that Cheaper Than Dirt and other sources offering good prices on ammo are located in Texas and so charge me sales tax.

    Comment by pahoben — February 11, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

  4. @pahoben-it’s outrageous. Your analogy is so apt. So apt. Between DHS buying 1 point 6 billion effing rounds of 9mm and 40 cal and all the other BS, it would be easier to find a sausage in Leningrad in 1989 than ammo in Houston today. Re the DHS buy, I am loath to credit conspiracy theories, but I can think of no reason for that other than that they want to make ammunition scarce. At the height of the surge in Iraq, the US military was expending 5.5 mm rounds per month. So what do Fish & Wildlife and NOAA etc. need with 1.6 billion rounds?

    Good prices on ammo . . . getting ammo at any price is the issue. Which raises the question: why haven’t the manufacturers raised prices? That’s puzzling to me.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 11, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

  5. You remember at some point Obama noting that the US needs a domestic organization equal to the US military.

    Some of the state governments appear they will be the thin blue line in this regard.

    Comment by pahoben — February 11, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

  6. There does seem to be an abundance of skeet loads recently. What a lame photo.

    Comment by pahoben — February 11, 2013 @ 9:42 pm

  7. @pahoben. If LAPD and Torrence PD are representative of said thin blue line, we are in deep sh*t indeed. The handling of the Dorner case is an embarrassment on so many levels. They don’t know when to shoot, and when they do, they do so with all the precision of Afghans spraying and praying. Did you see the photos of the car of the poor women delivering papers who were barraged by LAPD? Their vehicle looked like the Bonnie and Clyde car. I could shoot better groups blindfolded after a couple of doubles. Thank God for small favors they can’t hit what they aim at, but FFS. One shot, one kill is definitely not their motto. So yeah. We definitely need more armed idiots “protecting” us. But maybe that’s why they need 1.6 billion rounds of ammo. They need the practice. A lot of practice.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 11, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

  8. @pahoben. Re skeet. That photo is so sketch. The smoke perpendicular to the barrel is bizarre. And who shoots skeet with the barrel parallel to the ground?

    But I am convinced the administration puts out stuff like that to get the right in a lather of conspiracy theories, which it will make look ridiculous with some subsequent release. (The birth certificate charade was the classic example of this.)

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 11, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

  9. I was thinking more about Texas than California but yeah the police in CA are sh&$t with gun control so to speak. Funny that Perry is on a seek and charm mission in California right now.

    Quite often videos of bizzare police behavior are from California.

    I guess instead of thin blue line I should have referenced thin red line to match the state color designations.

    Comment by pahoben — February 11, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

  10. A great video is when LAPD stops a van with helicopters circling and enough squad cars to film the Terminator scene at Cyberdine Corporation. They shut down the entire freeway and start with the driver. He is told to carefully exit the van and walk sideways to the middle of the freeway and lay down on his face. He looks suspicously like a middle aged father. Next front passenger. She does the same and she looks suspicously like a middle aged mother. Then back driver’s side passenger who does the same and he looks oddly like a teenage son. Other back passenger the same. They have these people spread out in the middle of the freeway and realize they had the license number wrong on a stolen car.

    Comment by pahoben — February 11, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

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