Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Guns, Taxes and Governing
In response to the mass killing in Sandy Hook, Democratic legislators in Connecticut’s General Assembly, under pressure to do something – anything, quickly!!! -- have so far offered some novel recommendations.
State Senator Beth Bye of West Hartford and state Representative Bob Godfrey of D-Danbury have proposed a limitation to high capacity weapons; the Majority Leader in the State Senate, Martin Looney, has vowed to introduce a bill prohibiting those barred from legally owning firearms from possessing ammunition as well. Ms. Bye and Mr. Godfrey want a 50 percent tax on ammunition, and Mr. Looney anticipates a bill that would tax “expensive guns,” the proceeds from which could be used to set up a fund for mental health support. No one should hold his breath; dedicated funds in Connecticut melt into the General Fund whenever the legislature has written too many costly bills – which is to say, always.
None of these larval bills would have prevented the slaughter at Sandy Hook. The weapons used by Adam Lanza were properly purchased by his mother, the killer’s first victim. Connecticut is a small state, and both weapons and bullets easily can be purchased elsewhere.
And, of course, curbs on legal purchases made by non-criminals will not affect the purchase of guns by criminals, which are widely available on the black market. Prisons in Connecticut are full of people who for some time have been out of the habit of obeying laws written by Connecticut’s General Assembly.
No one should be too surprised that the mass slaughter in Sandy Hook has led, by means of the usual political alchemy, to legislative proposals that would increase taxes.
The General Assembly fancies it is always looking out for the best interests of citizens of the state, and these interests are, as we are so often reminded, costly. The Governor Dannel Malloy mega-tax, the largest tax increase in state history, provides one indication of how very costly mega-government in the state of Connecticut has become. Only four governors ago, before then Governor Lowell Weicker graced the state with his income tax, then the largest tax increase in the state’s history, Connecticut was able to plug along with a modest fiscal budget of about $7.5 billion. The state budget has since swelled threefold, and Mr. Malloy’s mega tax has not led to a balanced budget.
According to frequent reports from Comptroller Kevin Lembo, the state budget has consistently been in arrears throughout Mr. Malloy’s first term, and OPM Chief Ben Barnes most recently has announced, much to the horror town administrators across the state, that cuts to municipal budgets may be necessary in President Barack Obama’s stalled economy to balance Connecticut’s upcoming budget. The new legislative season of the General Assembly began on January 9; and, as Hartford’s premier social and political critic, Mark Twain, reminds us, “No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
Some of the billions collected by the state in its tax grab and quickly fritted away on putative job producing schemes might have been used to implement in schools rapid response buttons, a suggestion made during a post-Sandy Hook security symposium or other strategies designed to reduce response time.
The speedy arrival of first responders certainly prevented more children from being murdered in Sandy Hook, and intuition – in the absence of a definitive report – suggests that rapid responses to incidents of this kind are more effective in reducing the slaughter than a tax on bullets. The Bye-Godfrey 50 percent tax on bullets, though it will do nothing to prevent future massacres like that of Sandy Hook, comes in handy as yet another convenient way to help balance Mr. Malloy’s books.
Some of the money used to create a $60,000,000 per mile busway connecting Hartford and New Britain might have been better used instead to decentralize police stations within communities across the state and to create a disbursed police configuration that would allow a more rapid response to events such as the Sandy Hook mass murder. It may be mentioned in passing that had Adam Lanza been apprehended and tried in Connecticut, he could not have been executed for having murdered 26 people, the General Assembly having recently abolished the state’s death penalty.
Most members of the General Assembly feel more secure in their buildings because of a security presence, and some urban schools in Connecticut maintain a security presence so that students will be sufficiently protected from assaults by other students. There is no sufficient reason why a police presence cannot be sited either in a school or in public building close to a school.
The General Assembly would do well to creating legislation that would reduce response times to events such as the mass murders in Sandy Hook. Securing peace and liberty by the construction of effective laws is the first and most important responsibility of any government that is not a government of the government, by the government and for the government.
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