Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller compared proposals to tax firearms for the benefit of victims of gun violence to poll taxes, which were used to deny African-Americans the right to vote.
Miller, who writes a gun blog for the Times, is the latest conservative commentator to compare the processes involved in gun ownership to racial discrimination.
Poll taxes are prohibited by the Twenty-fourth Amendment and have been found to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by the Supreme Court.
Most commercial firearms and ammunition sales are already subject to an excise tax which funds conservation programs. Recently, a number of states have proposed levying additional taxes on firearm and ammunition sales in order to set aside money for victims of gun violence, fund mental health initiatives and pay for the implementation of firearm licensing programs.
From the June 27 edition of the National Rifle Association News' Cam & Company:
MILLER: Chicago passed a law this year that adds a 25 dollar tax to firearm sales in Chicago, and obviously that's meant to discourage people to buy guns. Puts them out of range or reach for some people, cost wise.
Well now it's about eight states that are following suit with ideas of taxing ammo and guns as high as 50 percent in Maryland on ammo and in Connecticut on ammo. Massachusetts has a tax on guns and ammo in its main bill that is going through the legislature at pretty rapid speed on gun control. So Congressman Graves in the House, Sam Graves, has a bill that would eliminate the ability of these states and jurisdictions to basically tax your Second Amendment, which is pretty much a poll tax.
So his bill would say that Congress has authority under its ability to regulate interstate commerce, because guns and ammo are manufactured and sent interstate, that Congress can intervene and say you can't add taxes onto them, these states and cities. So that has been introduced and will go through the Judiciary Committee and I think that is a really positive move for Congress to do because it is -- I can't believe it will be held up in court that you can tax guns and ammo, you can tax the Second Amendment. I mean I'm sure these things will be eventually taken to court and I would bet they get overturned.
In April, a $25-per-gun tax went into effect in Cook County, Illinois, the revenue from which will pay for the cost of treating gunshot victims and prosecuting firearm criminals. Maryland also implemented a $25 fee on handgun licenses to fund mental health programs and pay for the implementation of that state's new handgun permitting system. Massachusetts is considering a tax on ammunition and firearms to pay for mental health programs and provide compensation to victims of gun violence. The Connecticut tax mentioned by Miller has been proposed, but was not part of new gun laws enacted in that state in April.
Conservative media figures, particularly those affiliated with the NRA, have frequently compared the conditions of gun ownership to those of segregation or racial discrimination.
On June 4, Cam Edwards, the host of Cam & Company, compared the experience of opponents of new gun laws in Colorado during the legislative process to the experiences of victims of racial segregation by citing the Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the racially discriminatory "separate but equal" doctrine. In 2012, Edwards said, "We are back to segregation now" while decrying a decision by the University of Colorado to require students who carried guns to live in a designated dormitory.
At the NRA's annual meeting in Houston, Texas, conservative radio host Glenn Beck capped off a May 4 keynote speech by adopting the mantle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in telling the audience to join him in a passive resistance movement that he compared to the lunch counter sit-in protests.
Beck told the audience, "Our right to keep and bear arms will not be infringed. We will follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we will follow the footsteps of Frederick Douglas, Winston Churchill, Thomas Paine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, [David] Ben-Gurion, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, hear me now. Hear me now. We shall overcome."
Ted Nugent, who sits on the NRA's board of directors and is a columnist for conspiracy website WND, said during a January interview that, "there will come a time when the gun owners of America, the law-abiding gun owners of America, will be the Rosa Parks and we will sit down on the front seat of the bus."
That same month Marion Hammer, a past president of the NRA, compared -- on an NRA News radio show -- the prospect of banning assault weapons to racial discrimination, stating, "banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago. But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It's just bad politics."