Politicians Love Subsidizing the Guns They Want to Ban

Since today is National Gun Control Day, it's worth remembering that many of the same politicians who hate guns also love gun manufacturers, and not just in New York (where, as I mentioned in December, politicians such as Rep. Chuck Schumer [D-NY] have helped dole out $6 million in subsidies to the factory that produces the politically reviled Bushmaster rifle).

Here's a piece in the West Hartford News titled: "Taxpayers subsidize assault gun makers." Get past the nebulous scare-word "assault," and tuck into the Gun Corporatism:

Taxpayers across the country are subsidizing the manufacturers of assault rifles used in multiple mass killings, including the massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown last month.

A Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting examination of tax records shows that five companies that make semiautomatic rifles have received more than $19 million in tax breaks, most within the past five years. [...]

The states providing the subsidies since 2003 are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Oklahoma. [...]

One of the breaks that went to a Smith & Wesson factory in Maine was based on a program initiated by then-Gov. Angus King, now the state's U.S. senator-elect.

King, in an email, said, "Various tax-incentive programs have been enacted over the years in Maine and virtually every other state to encourage and support job creation, particularly in the manufacturing sector. No one suggested at the time these programs were created — or since, as far as I know — that the government should decide which particular businesses within broad categories would be more or less desirable."

Neither targeted tax breaks nor direct subsidies are a good idea, for any industry. They complicate the tax code, favor well-connected incumbents over new competitors, turn the government into a customer, and in any case rarely produce the claimed economic effect. And as Walter Olsen memorably chronicled in Reason six years ago, they also expose many government moralists as hypocrites peddling the very products they claim kill citizens. Excerpt:

[T]he government, our alleged protector, has done much at all levels to promote products later assailed as needlessly unsafe, from tobacco to lead paint, from cheap handguns to Agent Orange. Often the state is at least as aware of the risks as the businesses that distribute the product, and in at least as good a position to control or prevent them. But-shaped and propelled by the incentives provided by our litigation system-our process of organized blame hardly ever puts the government in the dock. [...]

When big-city mayors and some federal officials, notably Clinton-era housing secretary Andrew Cuomo, decided to sign up for a litigation crusade against the firearms industry, they floated two major themes. First, they said, gunmakers and dealers had improperly "flooded" the market with weapons, ignoring indications that some were likely to fall into the hands of bad guys. Second, they had refused to adopt various supposedly promising safety measures intended to reduce the rate of accidental or deliberate gun injury, including "smart gun" technologies, integral trigger locks, and child-proofing devices, among others.

By an amusing irony, the cities that filed suit also happened to serve as some of the nation's biggest suppliers of guns, especially of "personal protection" firearms-that is, the kind intended for use against people rather than critters. The resale of city-owned weaponry-police surplus, as well as guns seized from lawbreakers-is a prized cash cow for city administrations.

Read the whole thing here.

UPDATE: Alert reader Robert Woolley unearths this blasto from El Pasto–Democratic Connecticut Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Christopher Dodd totally supported the first Assault Weapons Ban, especially after they carved out an exception for an otherwise assaulty weapon made by...a Connecticut gun manufacturer!

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  • The Late P Brooks||

    No one suggested at the time these programs were created — or since, as far as I know — that the government should decide which particular businesses within broad categories would be more or less desirable.

    Excuse me.

    My bullshit detector is on fire.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I was about to zero in on that same ridiculous statement.

  • Jordan||

    All firearms manufacturers should refuse to sell any magazines with a capacity over 7 rounds to any New York law enforcement officers.

  • flye||

    That's 49 rounds in dog magazines.

  • NoVAHockey||

    or any guns at all.

  • some guy||

    I was thinking the same thing.

    "Clearly the state of New York has determined that guns are dangerous. Cops already face enough danger in the line of duty, we don't need to throw this danger on the pile as well."

  • Tim||

    Once they ban the guns, the cops won't need any. Right?

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Angus King seems to be a bright guy and is an INDEPENDENT. Welch and Gillespie should write a book about the movement.

  • ||

  • Sam Grove||

    Again with the meme that a tax break is a subsidy.

  • R C Dean||

    Really, it depends on the tax break.

    If it is crafted so that it applies only to a handful of companies, I'm comfortable calling it a subsidy, myself. Substance over form, doncha know.

    Its a shame we have to split these hairs, but given that our tax code is used for everything from health insurance enforcement to welfare payments, you can't just say if its done through the tax code, its really just taxes and not something else.

  • OldMexican||

    The first gun grab: The Massacre At Wounded Knee

    Eyewitness to a Massacre
    Philip Wells was a mixed-blood Sioux who served as an interpreter for the Army. He later recounted what he saw that Monday morning:

    "I was interpreting for General Forsyth (Forsyth was actually a colonel) just before the battle of Wounded Knee, December 29, 1890. The captured Indians had been ordered to give up their arms, but Big Foot replied that his people had no arms. Forsyth said to me, 'Tell Big Foot he says the Indians have no arms, yet yesterday they were well armed when they surrendered. He is deceiving me. Tell him he need have no fear in giving up his arms, as I wish to treat him kindly.' Big Foot replied, 'They have no guns, except such as you have found.' Forsyth declared, 'You are lying to me in return for my kindness.'


    No tyrannical government here! Move on! Move on!

  • NeonCat||

    We have correctly leftist Top. Men. in charge now. Surely, they would never behave in such a fashion. Why, some of them have even helped to get guns into the hands of those without them! How much more beneficent can one (especially The One) get?

  • Brendan||

    I'm glad I don't believe in numerology. Today 94 years ago, the 18th amendment was ratified. 94 is the year of the last time we went down the whole ban 'assault weapons' nonsense.

    A mild ring just stated in Glenn Beck's ears.

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