Give gun owners a tax break for getting rid of their weapons – Chicago Sun-Times


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On June 25, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which established expanded background checks for the purchase of a firearm by someone under 21. The new law also provides funding for violence intervention programs, mental health resources and enhanced school safety measures.

However, this much-lauded piece of legislation did not address the status of firearms — especially military-style assault weapons — already owned. A flaw.

A month later, on July 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an assault weapons ban (H.R. 1808), that the Senate, on Aug. 1, immediately buried in its judiciary committee. It was declared “dead” in the Senate on Jan. 3, according to H.R. 1808 was also flawed, as it gave already-owned assault weapons “grandfather” status.

On Jan. 10, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law an assault weapons ban that has already been challenged in court, with a judge issuing a temporary restraining order favoring the plaintiffs. More court challenges are sure to follow.

To reduce gun violence in America, we need to reduce the number of guns in America. To accomplish that goal, we need to move beyond flawed legislation and contentious court decisions.

We need, instead, to amend the federal tax code so that someone who legally owns a firearm — and especially an assault weapon — would be able to turn it in and receive a tax deduction on their next year’s federal income tax return.

Here’s how it might work: The applicant would first go to a joint Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms/IRS website and enter the necessary information about themselves and the gun or guns in question. The ATF would need to verify the gun was legally purchased by that individual.

After electronically submitting that form, the applicant would receive, on their smart phone or via email, an acknowledgment from the IRS containing a unique identification number or a quick response code (or QR).

With that acknowledgment in hand, the applicant would then contact his or her local law enforcement and arrange to drop off his or her guns. (Unloaded, of course!) After law enforcement has safely collected the firearms and verified all information at the ATF/IRS website, the applicant would then receive a final e-acknowledgment to submit for the tax year in question.

Not just a gun buy-back

What would be the incentive to apply for a deduction? How about a $300 deduction for each handgun, a $600 deduction for any rifle or shotgun and an enticing $1,000 deduction for an assault-style weapon?

Who would find this program appealing? Those whose passion for firearms has cooled with age; those who worry their guns might one day pass into the wrong hands; or those whose conscience has been stirred by mass shootings, such as in Uvalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; Highland Park; and recently in California.

Critics might say this plan sounds no different than a gun buy-back event. I disagree. Such events are very localized, of very brief duration and rely mostly on private donations. My plan would require no such funding, would be ongoing and would be national in scope, as is the problem it addresses.

Privacy advocates would balk at giving personal information online, especially to the government. With the make, model and serial number of each gun aside, one gives out as much personal information when applying online for a job, a credit card or even when ordering a pizza for delivery.

Nitpickers might question why firearms must pass muster with the ATF. Firearms purchased at gun shows, or through informal person-to-person sales, might have shaky histories and might be owned by shaky people. Why should shaky people get a federal tax deduction for a gun with a shaky history?

Finally, for constitutionalists who scream about their Second Amendment rights, this plan doesn’t even come within shouting distance of the Second Amendment. It is purely voluntary.

Could such a plan stop the mass shootings we have been witnessing? No, I’m sad to say. But then again, it isn’t meant to. Rather, it seeks to increase public safety by reducing as much as possible the number of firearms in circulation.

But I am sure of one thing: I’m weary of seeing the American flag hanging lifeless at half-mast.

John Vukmirovich is a Chicago-area writer and book reviewer. His essay, “Loren Eiseley, The Hidden Teacher,” on the American anthropologist, recently appeared in Catamaran Literary Reader.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. See our guidelines.

The views and opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chicago Sun-Times or any of its affiliates.

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