The Conversation - Gun violence as a market failure

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Could tax policy help tame gun violence?

It might. At the very least, it could curb gun sales.

That’s according to Topher McDougal, a professor of economic development and peacebuilding who has thought deeply about California’s first-in-the-nation excise tax on firearms.

California’s levy can be thought of as a Pigouvian tax, McDougal writes. These are designed to reduce “negative externalities,” or harms involving third parties such as society at large. Taxes on alcohol and tobacco are classic examples.

And as of July, California will start to do something unprecedented: It will tax guns comparably to alcohol.

Will it make a difference to the gun violence crisis that kills 40,000 Americans annually? Other states will be paying close attention to California’s experiment.

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Tracy Walsh

Economy + Business Editor

It will soon cost a bit more to buy a gun in California. Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

California is about to tax guns more like alcohol and tobacco − and that could put a dent in gun violence

Topher L. McDougal, University of San Diego

The US homicide rate is far above the rate of other nations.

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