Bill Pascrell, representative of New Jersey’s 9th congressional district, announced today at St. Luke Baptist Church on Carroll Street, legislation to prevent gun violence by taxing guns and ammunition to fund law enforcement programs.
“The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act of 2013, would implement a long overdue adjustment to the federal excise taxes on firearm and ammunition in order to fund law enforcement programs, improvement to the background check systems, and gun violence research,” said Pascrell.
Recent shootings in Paterson during National Night Out on August 7th, America’s Night Out against Crime, left two: Jaquell Johnson and Derrick Fitts, both 17-year-old students of Eastside High School, dead. “Two young lives were cut short here in Paterson on the night of August 6th and in the early morning hours of August 7th,” said Pascrell.
Mentioning the death of Johnson, the congressman said, “He was playing basketball outside, on the street with his friends; he was gun-down, right around the corner,” indicating the close proximity of violence from the Carroll Street church in front of which he was speaking. He did not neglect to mention the closeness of the violence occurring in the city to his own residence, he said, “I don’t live too far from this street.” Mr Pascrell, who lives on 16th Avenue, is well aware of the violence that plague the nearby streets.
Pascrell spoke in front of a crowd of more than hundred that included police chiefs from around his district including William Fraher, the city’s police chief, and various organizations like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an anti-gun violence organization, and Ceasefire NJ, an organization that wants to end gun violence through the passage of gun control legislation.
The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act would increase taxes on guns and ammunition purchases; a percentage of funds raised would then be redirected to organizations such as Project Safe Neighborhoods, an anti-gun and anti-gang initiative, Centers for Disease Control, and others: “35% COPS; 35% Project Safe Neighborhoods; 10% CDC Research; 5% National Criminal History Improvement Program; and 5% NICS Act Record Improvement Program; 5% and grants to schools and districts to implement comprehensive, evidence-based discipline systems to improve school climate,” according to Pascrell’s office.
Pascrell hopes to provide “dedicated funding to gun violence prevention efforts” through this legislation. A percentage would also be given to schools as grants to improve school environment. Pascrell cites that, “Tax on handgun was last increased in 1955, worse yet tax rate on ammunition types of firearms has remained the same since 1941.” Currently the excise tax on firearms is 10-11 percent, the legislation would raise it to 20-percent. Tax on ammunition is 11 percent, it would be raised to 50 percent. However, federal agencies, state agencies, and local agencies will be exempt from the tax.
The revenues raised from the taxes will go towards funding local police agencies. “They don’t even have enough policemen here [Paterson],” said Pascrell. “All across our country, local police departments have had their budgets slashed and been forced to lay off officers, reducing their ability to protect our communities from the scourge of gun violence.” Due to lack of funding 125 officers in Paterson were laid-off in 2011, with a new source of funding many of these officers can be rehired.
Almost all guns used by criminals come from outside of New Jersey, “they are coming from Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia,” said Pascrell. These states have different gun laws, said Pascrell, “the legislation will increase the transfer tax on all weapons (except antique guns) from $200 to $500 and index to inflation,” according to his office.
It is estimated that this Act, if implemented, will raise $600 million in funds that will go towards programs that aim to curb gun violence not just in urban communities but across the country.