Gun groups vow to fight Missouri lawmaker’s bill taxing guns to pay for police body cameras
A Missouri state legislator has drawn criticism from gun enthusiasts for introducing bills that would pay for body cameras for police officers through a tax increase on firearm and ammunition sales, Guns.com reported.
House Bills 75 and 76, which were introduced by state Rep. Brandon Ellington (D), would implement a 1 percent tax raise on gun sales, with the money going to the “Peace Officer Handgun and Ammunition Sales Tax Fund,” to be used to buy the cameras.
Officers would then be required to wear the cameras during any interaction with the public, and keep the footage in their records for at least 30 days. Undercover officers and detectives would be exempt from wearing the cameras.
“That’s something that I think is a necessity not only when we look at what happened in Ferguson, but when we look at inner-city interactions between law enforcement,” Ellington told KCTV-TV last month.
A similar version of the bill, which did not include the tax increase, did not advance past the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee last year.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has already come out against Ellington’s proposal.
“Forcing law-abiding Missourians to pay an additional tax on firearm and ammunition purchases is unmerited. Gun owners and purchasers should not be responsible for funding these projects,” the group said in a release. “The NRA will continue to fight against such misguided encroachments on those who exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation also objected to the bills, calling the idea of an additional firearm tax “ill-considered.”
According to the Associated Press, Ellington’s proposal is among 36 bills by state lawmakers filed in response to the uproar surrounding Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown last August.
Other proposals concern issues ranging from deadly force guidelines for officers to requiring cultural diversity training for police, as well as caps on the amount of money municipalities can raise from traffic fines and court costs.
“Cities that exist solely for the purpose of collecting traffic fines are probably going to have a rough session,” state Rep. John Diehl (R) said.
However, Diehl’s Democratic colleague Maria Chappelle-Nadal, an outspoken critic of Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) response to the Brown shooting, said it was not the local fine structure that led to Brown’s death.
“That’s just an element of injustice, of institutional racism that happened,” said Chappelle-Nadal, who has introduced a bill that would require a special prosecutor to be appointed in cases concerning “deaths or injuries caused by police.”
Ellington also introduced a bill last month that would do away with grand jury proceedings in the state.
“Grand jurys are not court proceedings,” he wrote on his official Facebook page. “They are often clouded in secrecy and they are not necessary for a charge to be brought against anyone. In light of the bias proceedings that happened during Mike Brown’s case I feel that we should have a fair & transparent system for prosecution.”
Both Chappelle-Nadal and Ellington’s proposals follow months of criticism toward St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch for his handling of the Wilson case. McCulloch admitted last month that he let some witnesses testify before the grand jury in that case despite knowing they were likely lying at the time. Wilson was not indicted in connection with Brown’s death.