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).
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.
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!