Love Canal type of Superfund needed to help taxpayers bearing the brunt of gun violence costs

By Sandy and Lonnie Phillips
Founders of Survivors Empowered

When toxic chemicals in Love Canal near New York’s Niagara Falls were detected by nearby residents in the 1960s, it set in motion the ultimate evacuation of 950 families and led to establishment of a Taxpayer Superfund in 1980 by the federal government. Resulting taxes on chemical and petroleum industries—jointly responsible for spreading more than 80 industrial chemicals onto residents’ properties—were used to clean up hazardous sites, establishing liabilities for those responsible for the hazards. Also established was a cleanup trust fund to help when no responsible party could be identified.

With US firearm violence related costs estimated at $557 billion annually, it’s time for the federal government to create a similar Superfund to help both those directly impacted by gun violence and US taxpayers paying for the consequences.

Florida’s Parkland Elementary School, scene of a mass shooting in 2018, is a microcosm of the problem. It is slated to be torn down in summer 2024 at a projected cost of $55 million. Florida taxpayers likely will bear the brunt of this expense.

Multiply this by the number of gun-fueled mass and individual shootings, suicides, and domestic violence events that continue to hammer this country, and it’s easy to see why the need for a Firearms Superfund—paid for by the gun dealer industry—is so pressing. The firearms industry reaps profits from the sales of firearms and ammunition but leaves the costs and burdens of gun violence largely to everyone else, including US taxpayers.

Statistics around the costs of gun violence are staggering and soaring. For example:

  • According to Everytown for Gun Safety, taxpayers, survivors, families, and employers pay an average of $7.79 million daily in health care costs, including immediate and long-term medical and mental health care, plus patient transportation/ambulance costs related to gun violence, and lose an estimated $147.32 million per day related to work missed due to injury or death. 
  • American taxpayers pay $30.16 million every day in police and criminal justice costs for investigation, prosecution, and incarceration. 

The firearms industry needs to clean up after themselves and not rely on taxpayers and others to foot the bill for them anymore. Similar to the Love Canal Superfund, Federal, State, and Local agencies can pay for much of the carnage by charging Taxpayer Relief Fees for all firearms, ammunition, and firearm accessories sold. 

And, it’s past time to repeal the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which shields gun dealers from prosecution when their weapons or ammunition are used to maim and kill people. Along with a Firearm Taxpayer Superfund, this can go a long way to help gun violence survivors get justice for negligent gun dealer practices leading to the deaths, dismemberment, and disability of so many thousands of Americans annually.

PLCAA’s inception, reversing 200 years of law, was due to the 2008 US Supreme Court District of Columbia v. Heller ruling. That decision was a gift to the arms dealers and a blow to gun laws that save lives. The Supreme Court conveniently neglected that the second amendment directly addresses the need for a militia and not the need to gin up gun sales. The founding fathers would be appalled at the deaths unleashed by gun corporation greed.

It’s time for objectivity, common sense, and compassion—something that millions of Americans know only too well, and that too many politicians want to ignore every chance they get.

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