It’s time to tax men: Shutting down gun violence

November 7, 2017

I’m so sick of this. I’m so sick of another mass shooting. I’m sick of the gut-wrenching stories of survivors. I’m sick of “thoughts and prayers.” I’m sick of writing another blog about it. I’m sick of doing interviews about it and saying the same damn thing every time. If America wasn’t sick of it after Sandy Hook, it never will be. But I’m sick of it. Feel free to call the shooters “deranged individuals” (if they are white) or “terrorists” (if they are not). But don’t talk to me unless you are willing to say what all these shooters are.

Men.

Boys and men. I’m not saying all boys are men are bad. Certainly the majority of boys and men aren’t opening fire on innocent people. And many men and boys are actively trying to stop the violence (including a few with guns!). This is about masculinity. The toxic masculinity that has been created in our culture that defines gun violence as an appropriate way for men in crisis to express their rage. Men in extreme crisis in Japan hang themselves. The same men in the United States use guns and many decide to take as many people with them as they check out. “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.” American masculinity does not allow you to fall to your knees. Not when there is amble firepower available to guarantee a dramatic exit.

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Male violence plagues us. The violence of Devin Kelley shooting five-year-olds in the head in a church in Sutherland, Texas or the violence of Harvey Weinstein’s low-grade war on women. It all has a cost. From coroners to lost work hours, every aspect of violence by boys and men sucks resources out of our society. What is the financial impact of having a family member killed? How about the emotional impact? The makers of pain killers and pain numb-ers might profit, but the rest of us are paying for it in tax-dollars, insurance premiums, and the erosion of the quality of life. What if the evening news reported on a great new work of art at the top of the hour instead of the daily body count? We are less human because we have normalized male violence.

One study in Minnesota found that gun violence in the state came in at a about $2.2 billion dollars in direct costs due to the 900 gun deaths that year. This doesn’t include indirect costs like lost property value and lost business. The famous 2015 Mother Jones study put the cost at $229 billion a year when you factor in the cost of prisons and lost wages. Each gun homicide costs the country $400,000 and we average about 32 gun murders a day.  Just as a point of comparison, the 2018 budget for Trump’s Department of Education is only $68.2 billion.

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In the late 1990s, I began assigning June Stephenson’s book, Men Are Not Cost Effective: Male Crime in America to my criminology students at Portland State University. She forwards the case that, because of the high cost of mostly male crime on our society, it makes sense that all men pay a “sin” tax to cover the cost of policing, prosecuting, and incarcerating male criminals. When we look at the research on female violent crimes, it’s typically the case that women are brought in to criminal enterprises with their male counterparts (“I was just attracted to bad boys, I guess.”) or are responding violently to their male abusers (“Goodbye, Earl!”). Some of the men in my classes balked at the assertion, but the women generally thought it was a smashing idea. And there are more women than men in this country (because men keep killing each other off).

Maybe it’s time to revisit Stephenson’s “man tax.” If shooting kids in a kindergarten class or church at point blank range doesn’t wake men up to the toll of “going out like a man,” maybe grabbing their wallets will. America is prevented from being a more perfect union because of all the economic and emotional resources devoted to dealing with male violence. If we want to make America great, I say let’s hit ‘em where it hurts. Maybe then men will care about how they do maleness.

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We could start simple, perhaps a sales tax on dumb men things, like bullets, Call of Duty video games, and UFC pay-per-view matches. Then we can expand it to anyone with a Y chromosome. And the earlier the better. In the 1998 school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas that killed five and wounded ten (all female victims), the shooters were 11 and 13 years-old. As soon as a tween boy walks into a 7-11 to buy a Big Gulp, hit him in the nuts with the man tax.

Then, as boys and men start to get it and gun violence starts to decline, there can be subsequent reductions in the tax. Hey, nobody went postal this month, the tax on camouflage pajama pants is temporarily suspended! How else are we going get men to stop killing us? What politician that isn’t busy licking the NRA’s ass will be bold enough to propose this approach? I’m guessing it won’t be a man.

Other posts on this endless topic:

How to talk rationally about gun control (October 4, 2017)

Owning My White Privilege: Stories I won’t (have to) tell my children (September 21, 2016)

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting in America (October 2, 2015)

White Boys to Terrorist Men: Pointless Male Violence and Charleston (June 19, 2015)

 

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7 thoughts on “It’s time to tax men: Shutting down gun violence

  1. I look at the face of that shooter, and it looks exactly like the face of someone else I knew from many years back, in high school. It was the bullying creep who used to perv on the girls on the schoolbus. He would get right up next to one of us, and start narrating sex acts in disgustingly graphic detail. Ugh! And what were we going to do about it? Reporting him would mean that we would have to tell the administration what he said, and there’s no way we were going to repeat that, it was bad enough the first time.

    A couple of years later I heard that he had been arrested in connection with a murder, and it didn’t surprise me in the least. And I googled him just now, and found out that he died in 2006. Usually I would hesitate to take any satisfaction from the death of another human, but in this case I only thought “Good riddance.”

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  2. Putting a tax on men to prevent them from doing mass shootings? Are you serious? Putting a tax on men to prevent them from doing shootings is equivalent to putting a tax on women for abortions. Both are taking lives. In some states, fetal homicide is considered murder. So if fetal homicide is considered murder, then so is abortion. Both are terminating the life/heart beat of the baby in the womb. But that’s for another discussion.

    Not all men who own guns are bad. I own several guns and I haven’t gone out to kill anybody. Rather than labeling all men like that, maybe you should take a look at what is really the cause and root of all these shootings. This shooter was found guilty in a court of law by the Air Force. So how was he able to gain access to a fire arm? The Air Force dropped the ball by not reporting it to the Federal Government for him having a felony. Now, the government is about to be faced with a huge lawsuit against the families of the victims.

    But back to your topic about “taxing boys/men.” Putting a tax on them to help prevent in the future is already judging a specific group/person before the act is even committed. Saying that is like me saying all Middle Eastern people shouldn’t be allowed in the U.S. because they all support ISIS, or nobody from Central/South America shouldn’t be allowed in the U.S. because they bring drugs and crime here. Now believe me I don’t believe that, but I’m using that as a hypothetical case.

    I know people are screaming for stricter gun laws/restrictions. Problem is there’s two different groups of people who see things completely differently and there is no compromise or meeting in the middle. So, how do we try and fix a system that is hurting? It’s quite simple actually. Both groups come to the table with realistic restrictions. There’s already laws that say if you are a convicted felon or have a mental condition, you are not allowed to own/possess a firearm. When I go to purchase a firearm, there’s a federal background check that is done. Not sure how much more tighter/stricter you can get? It has taken any where from 1 1/2 hrs to 3 hrs for a background check to come back for me. If the people who are getting these firearms who shouldn’t be allowed, then maybe that needs to be looked into.

    But “taxing boys/men” is absurd. What about the girl/woman who is into the same things that males are into (shooting, UFC, war video games, etc.)? Are you going to tax them for being into the exact same things that guys are into?

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      1. So you are wanting to tax am entire male population for something they haven’t ever done. How about taxing the entire women population for abortions? Not all of them will get one, but it’s the exact same concept as the men population.

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      2. Brian, I think we should tax the men for those abortions. Those women didn’t pregnant by themselves. Yeah, just fold it into the Man Tax. It might help to make up for the fact that women only get paid 75% for doing the exact same work men do.

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  3. Thank you. I saw June Stephenson’s book “Men Are Not Cost Effective: Male Crime in America” in a bookstore years ago and was intrigued. Much later I tried to find a copy and it was difficult, however I prevailed and now I consider it one of those rare books that could kickstart the conceptual evolution of society. No wonder it was so hard to find.

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  4. Face palm. So you think it’s the guy that should be responsible for it? Oh wait, Oregon already pays for a woman to kill a baby. I love how you are stereotyping the entire male population for offenses that they never have or won’t do.

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