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Dems propose gun-tax hike; GOP says target mental illness

   A bill proposed by two U.S. House Democrats — one from Illinois — would substantially increase taxes on guns and ammo sales in the name of gun control.
   Republicans say they will staunchly oppose the measure, HR 3018, introduced Aug. 2 by U.S. Reps. Danny Davis, D-Ill., and Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., as the Gun Violence Prevention and Save Communities Act. The bill would essentially double the current 11 percent tax on handgun sales and nearly quintuple the tax on bullets and cartridges from 11 percent to 50 percent. 
   Lawmakers estimate the bill would generate $600 million annually to fund law enforcement and gun violence prevention. Procedurally, the bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the excise tax, special occupational tax and transfer tax on firearms sales. If enacted, it would take effect July 1, 2014.
   Co-sponsor Davis says the initial reaction from his constituency, Pascrell’s and others included vocal opposition to the bill, but as the weeks passed, those in favor began to call and e-mail. Davis’ professional background includes an M.S. from Chicago State University and he worked as a mental health professional prior to entering politics.
   “We received a lot of reaction from citizens when we first proposed this bill,” Davis said. “But as time went on, we got what turned out to be an even number of ‘right ons’ from people who said ‘anything we can do…anything we can do to help you reduce the number of guns in society and on the street and take them out of the hands of anyone who is not a law enforcement officer’,” he added. “We’ve been heartened by the reaction.”
   Approximately 45 days after HR 3018 was introduced, a former Navy reservist killed 12 people Sept. 16 in a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. The heinous crime, barely a mile from many congressmen’s offices, kept the sobering discussion front and center.
   Those in opposition of the hefty tax hike proposal on gun owners, including U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., say that dealing with the root cause of many of these rampages — mental illness — is the source of the crisis and is what desperately needs to be addressed in a discussion led by the president, supported by both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.
    “I have the utmost respect for my colleague, Danny Davis, who is also a friend of mine,” said Rodney Davis. “But passing an enormous tax increase on firearms purchased by law-abiding citizens is just not the answer to dealing with these senseless tragedies.”
   Rodney Davis says the place to begin is with President Obama’s leadership of a discussion on mental illness that includes the role it may indeed play in the mass shootings that have taken dozens of American lives – from Columbine to the present.
   “We have got to figure out when or if those societal factors have an impact,” he said. “This true, honest discussion — one that includes the topic of mental illness — has got to happen, and we all need to have a voice in it, but it has got to be initiated and led by our president. Taxing responsible gun owners does nothing to address the real causes and origins of gun violence in our communities.”
   Under HR 3018, the projected $600 million in additional tax revenues would be allocated as follows: 35 percent for community policing services and grants to hire and rehire additional law enforcement officers and school safety officers; 35 percent for Project Safe Neighborhoods; 10 percent for the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (for research on gun violence and prevention); 5 percent for the National Criminal History Improvement Program; 5 percent for the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System Record Improvement Program; 5 percent for the Department of Justice’s Community-Based Violence Prevention Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation Program; and 5 percent for the Secretary of Education for grants to help schools develop strategies that keep kids from warranting entry into juvenile and criminal justice systems.

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