In Massachusetts, there's an initiative underway to force handgun dealers (and thus handgun purchasers) to underwrite the costs of spinal cord injury research. The proposal would tack a $25 surcharge onto every handgun purchase in the state, with the revenue thus raised going to research. The logic, apparently, is that spinal cord injury research funds are a bit scarce, and handgun dealers (and their customers) have money, ergo it's their responsibility to pay for a way to treat these injuries.
OK--to be fair, that's not the entire argument the measure's advocates are using--they also point to the fact that some spinal cord injuries are caused by shootings. I wonder if we'll soon be seeing a push to tack a surcharge onto the purchase of every box of Girl Scout cookies, to fund research into obesity and diabetes.
One of the advocates of the tax, McArthur Williams, is himself paralyzed as the result of a shooting. He has some interesting thoughts on how gun buyers would view being forced to pay for medical research (and also on Second Amendment rights).
"It's a privilege to own a gun," Williams said in an interview yesterday. "The surcharge, if you know it's going toward research for a problem caused by gun violence, most people wouldn't have a problem."Hmm--the privilege of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (well, maybe some extraneous costs will be added to it)--the Second Amendment certainly is a lot more complicated in his version of the Constitution than it is in mine.
A committee member asked Williams whether legal gun owners, who would pay the fee, are the same people who are shooting others on Boston streets.That the tax would be levied on people not responsible for the problem is beside the point?
Williams said that's beside the point. "It's still violence from guns, and they got the guns from somewhere," the 39-year-old answered.
Lest anyone believe that I am unsympathetic to victims of spinal cord injuries, I should probably point out that I am paralyzed from just below the chest on down. Granted, my injury came from a car accident, not in a shooting, but you'll not hear me crying for a tax on car and motorcycle (or perhaps gasoline) sales to fund spinal cord injury research, despite the fact that vehicle accidents cause vastly greater numbers of such injuries (and involve a vastly greater pool of money from which to extort funds).
The gun dealers didn't paralyze you, Mr. Williams, and it's not their responsibility to repair you.