Pretty soon, it will probably be legal in Texas to carry a gun openly on one's hip. It also seems likely that carrying guns will become legal on Texas' college campuses. This is because the Legislature, meeting right now in its biennial effort to address the state's most pressing public policy needs, has instead decided to focus on easing already light restrictions on gun ownership.
At least open carry and campus carry are based on an internally consistent, if sometimes incoherent, religio-philosophical worldview. But now lawmakers are moving to exempt guns from sales taxes, which is dumb.
The Texas Senate approved a proposal on Thursday to add firearms and hunting supplies to the short list of items (currently school supplies and energy-efficient appliances) exempt from sales tax on the last weekend in August.
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Texas' sales tax holiday serves two purposes: to give hard-pressed families some relief as they equip their kids with new clothes, pencils, notebooks and the like for the coming school year; and to encourage energy conservation, which is an important public-policy objective. But people don't need guns the way kids need school supplies, and it's hard to see why the state needs to encourage gun purchases. People who are going to buy guns are going to buy them whether an additional 8.25 percent is tacked onto their receipt or not. The cost to the state -- about $3.5 million per year, according to estimates from the Legislative Budget Board -- is relatively small but certainly it would be better spent on public education or healthcare.
The bill's author, Conroe Republican Brandon Creighton, argues that the tax holiday will give an economic boost because gun-sellers in East Texas are losing business to Louisiana, which has a tax holiday. That argument has two weaknesses: 1) the amount of extra business won't be nearly enough to offset the losses in tax revenue to the state; and 2) it presumes that Texas should aspire to be like Louisiana.
Creighton's bill still must pass the Texas House, though that body isn't quite the saucer that cools hot-tempered legislation.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.