People are often surprised by how many guns I’ve shot, and I suppose they have every right to. I’m a liberal, see, born to a couple of college professors and raised in a sleepy little university town. I’m for women’s rights, gay rights, and racial equality. I recyle and make a nod towards minimizing my environmental impact. I pick diplomacy over violence, and I vote Democrat. But the list of guns I’ve used is long: .22 rifle, .30-30, .30-‘06, .308, 20-guage, 18 guage, 12 guage. I’ve shot replica barrel-loading musket rifles, replica Civil War-era revolver pistols, .22 pistols, 9mm, .357 Magnum. That last was gleaming chrome with a black rubber handle and was kind of awesome. I’ve shot up cans, plywood, ciderblocks, bottles, squirrels and birds. I’ve gone hunting in the most general sense: wake early and walk quietly through the woods on grandparents’ farm looking for things to kill. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s fun. Shooting guns is fun, and hunting is fun, but neither requires a whole bunch of bullets.
After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School (the very word 'massacre’ not enough for what happened there), there’s much talk of gun control. I’m not sure we should be talking about gun control, though. I think it might be better to talk about bullet control.
Chris Rock and Michael Moore have talked bullet control, both in jest and somewhat seriously. I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about it now. Bullet control makes sense, would help with the current financial crisis, and would be easier to pass, I think, than any gun control laws.
It’s hard to take things away from people.
Whenever you begin talking about gun control–meaningful gun control–the first two items on anyone’s agenda are assault weapons and high-capacity clips. The logic goes like this: ban assault weapons and ban high-capacity clips and the number of mass shootings decreases. But what gets classified as an assault weapon? What’s the difference between an assault weapon and a sporting weapon? This is something that came up during the last ban, and many people bought sporting weapons then quickly converted them into assault weapons. See, it wasn’t illegal to own an assault weapon, just to purchase one. Anyone who owned an assault weapon before the ban went into effect had the right to keep their assault weapon. And much the same can be said for high-capcity clips. Unless you’re expecting everyone who currently owns a high-capacity clip to turn them in, then there will be many still floating out there. And if you manage to make possession illegal (which is a long shot), you’ll still have people who hang onto them because enforcement will be next to impossible. Until, that is, they decide to shoot up some public space and kill a lot of people before turning a weapon on themselves. Then what? Lo and behold, illegal high-capacity clips.
It’s a little easier to make things hard to come by
Did you know you can buy 25 9mm bullets for about fifteen dollars? 50 .45 magnum bullets for about thirty? How about spending that same thirty dollars and getting 20 rounds of .300 rifle ammunition? Bullets are incredibly cheap, and like most things become cheaper the more you buy. But what if bullets were three dollars a piece? Five dollars? There might be many who would say they’d never pay that much for bullets. I’d like to ask those people a few questions.
What do you use bullets for? If you’re talking about hunting or home defense, I don’t think paying three dollars a bullet is unreasonable. Let’s say you have a 10 bullet clip. That’s $30 for home defense. Seems like a very reasonable price. What about hunting? From experience I know you’re not going to be using more than two bullets per deer, let’s say. And if you’re super lucky, you’ll get a chance at two deer per day. So, let’s say you’re going on a four-day hunting excursion for deer, you buy up double the ammunition you think you’re going to need for those four days, and you come up with 32 bullets. Is $96 too much to pay for hunting? What about $128? If I asked you whether you’d spend $40 a day to get to shoot at some deer, would you say no? Me neither.
What about practice? How can we ensure our kids grow up knowing how to properly use guns? We need lots of bullets for practice. I agree kids who have access to guns need to be able to practice with guns. That’s why licensed shooting ranges would be able to buy bulk bullets cheaply and pass that savings on to their customers. So let’s say Bringham’s Gun Range can buy bullets for a dollar a piece. They sell them at a fifty percent markup: $1.50. To get 10 bullets now runs you fifteen bucks, and you can use them on-site. 50 bullets? Maybe you get a discount. 50 bullets costs you $62.50. It’s not chump change, sure, but it’s cheaper than taking a family of three to the movies.
So who benefits from the increased price of bullets?
In a sense, we all would. If the federal government levied a tax on bullets (as it does on cigarettes and alcohol and other things that kill people), it could generate a good deal of revenue. It would also provide entrepeneurs an opportunity to open gun ranges as folks would be looking for places to practice more cheaply than they could in their homes. It also might provide an opportunity for more manufacture of ammunition in the United States. While much of the ammunition sold in the U.S. is made in the U.S., some comes from places like Russia and the Czech Republic. We could levy heavier tarriffs on imported ammo, either creating more revenue or creating more opportunity for local manufacture. Yes, demand wouldn’t be nearly as high since individual purchase of hundreds and hundreds of rounds would be a thing of the past, but I think that’s a demand we can do without.
No, this does not diminish stockpiles of ammunition currently sitting in basements and bunkers and on sun-room shelves across the United States. And yes, I suppose criminals would still be able to get their hands on many rounds if they took to robbing delivery trucks or licensed gun ranges. I wonder, though, if they might re-consider the latter, knowing how many guns and how much ammo the owner might have on hand and be pretty good with, and somehow I don’t think current ammo deliveries necessarily advertise themselves as such. I can’t think future ones would, either.
If using bullets to generate federal revenue has a downside, I can’t see it, and I think it should be under serious consideration as we move forward with the gun control debate.