The Australian “outlaw and repurchase” option is one approach. But if Congress balks at banning certain weapons entirely, there’s an all-American answer: Make gun owners an offer they can’t refuse. Instead of a measly $200 a gun, Uncle Sam might offer $500. After all, overpaying powerful constituencies to achieve public policy goals is a time-honored American tradition; we do it every day with Medicare drug benefits and defense contractors, to name just two.
So imagine a $100 billion, one-time program aimed at buying back 200 million firearms at $500 a pop. We issue the payments in prepaid credit cards that expire in three months (good thinking, Los Angeles!) to be sure the money is spent fast.
A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the host of the new podcast “This...Is Interesting,” Miller writes a weekly column for The Post.
Ann Telnaes animation: The aftermath of the Newtown shooting.
Presto! So long as the federal money is borrowed, we get an immediate boost to demand, jobs and growth. And with long-term interest rates at all-time lows, there’s never been a better time for the feds to overpay gun owners and get these weapons out of circulation. The president can even pitch selling a gun to Uncle Sam as a patriotic act — part of a national rethinking of our gun culture in the wake of Newtown.
If you think a gun buyback stimulus sounds beyond the pale, it’s only because you’ve been conditioned to live with a pinched view of what’s possible. Which is really more outlandish: my gun buyback stimulus, or the self-inflicted recession Washington is working overtime to un-inflict? The only idea that is truly bonkers is to think we’re helpless to reverse the carnage that just claimed its most innocent victims yet.
Besides, by structuring the buyback so that half is administered via refundable tax credits, Republicans could take credit for a major tax cut, to boot.
The White House and Congress can tweak the details (especially to make sure that the government doesn’t buy back old nonworking guns or junk that gun dealers can’t unload anywhere else). I’m not here to write the legislation. I’m just trying to get the conversation started.
But we need to think fast about policies equal to the scale of the problem. If we don’t, and this window of opportunity closes, we’ll end up (at best) with symbolic “first steps” that our leaders pretend are serious — but which will only doom Americans to more blood and tears.
Matt Miller is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-host of public radio’s “Left, Right & Center.” His e-mail address is email@example.com.