Costs put on gun owners are not Poll Taxes

When a proposal for requiring insurance for guns is put into a blog discussion, many of the strong pro-gun advocates reacting to the post base their objection on rights as they assume they have them from the second amendment to the US Constitution. These assumptions can be very broad. And I see statements such as “what other rights do you have to pay for?” and “paying for gun insurance is like a Poll Tax.”

Well, I see us paying taxes on the means necessary to exercise a right all the time. Look at your phone bill, it’s full of taxes on a means to communicate. You have a right to travel, but pay taxes on cars and on air and rail tickets.

Poll taxes are really obnoxious, especially the way they were historically used, but they were not found to be unconstitutional until a specific amendment (The 24th Amendment to the US Constitution) was adopted. There is no similar amendment for gun rights. It’s interesting that rather heavy taxes for automatic weapons have never been found to be unconstitutional.

District of Columbia v. Heller is a very narrow decision in itself. It only overturns an extremely restrictive law that totally prohibits gun ownership. Later the court extended it to state laws in another case, McDonald v. Chicago. Since then lots of restrictions on gun use and ownership have been upheld by state courts. Whether the Supreme Court will strike a broader range of gun restrictions in the future is unknown. While lots has been written by legal scholars about the subject, the future path of this law will probably be determined by political considerations. Heller was supported by 5 justices with a strong dissent by 4 justices. It’s possible that it could be rolled back to the old view that any right to bear arms did not apply to individuals or it’s possible that it could be broadened.

As far as insurance is concerned, the system supported by this blog only requires regulations applied to the manufacturer of guns. Any requirement that the insurance be transferred to the subsequent owner, as would be needed to let the manufacturer’s insurer relinquish responsibility, would be a private contract.

One thought on “Costs put on gun owners are not Poll Taxes

  1. Two points:

    1. While mobile mobile phone usage and air travel are taxed, those instrumentalities are not necessary to the rights to speak and travel. A better analogy would be a tax on a newspaper, which has recently been held unconstitutional as a prior restraint, since the newspaper is a form of speech itself. One could also analogize to a $5 per blog post tax to compensate potential defamation victims, as such a tax would also tax a right rather than related instrumentalities. I don’t believe your distinction between a tax and a mandatory private insurance premium carries any legal significance.

    With respect to your poll tax example, are you suggesting that specific infringements on constitutional rights are permissible unless those infringements are expressly prohibited by constitutional amendment? That’s news to me, but I’m just a lawyer.

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