Southwest Airlines CEO on Firearms “Sin Taxes”

 Southwest Airlines  jefe Gary Kelly (courtesy

SIGCDR sent this in via email:

Southwest Airlines Chairman, President and CEO Gary Kelly [above] recently wrote an article entitled America Needs a National Airline Policy. Southwest Airlines published the piece in the February 2013 edition of Spirit Magazine. Kelly was also writing as the Chairman of Airlines for America (A4A), an industry lobbying group that decries what the UT grad calls a “punitive tax on airline tickets and aircraft fuel.” And speaking of taxes . . .

You might be surprised to learn that taxes and fees amount to about 20 percent of a typical $300 round-trip domestic ticket. That’s higher than taxes on products like alcohol, tobacco, and firearms—so-called “sin taxes” that are designed to discourage use. We’re working hard to keep flying affordable, and punitive taxes get in the way of that effort. Revising the federal tax structure on air travel is just one of the many ways that a National Airline Policy would allow airlines like Southwest and AirTran to better serve our customers.

It’s a small slip, but an important one. To clarify . . .

  1. Not even the liberal leaning Wikipedia labels federal firearms and ammunition excise taxes as a sin tax under the Sin Tax heading.
  2. Firearms and ammunition excise taxes are the backbone of conservation efforts in America at both federal and state level as a result of the Pittman–Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937.
  3. Handgun excise tax is 10% all other weapons and ammunition is 11% while airplane ticket excise taxes are 7.5% and jet fuel tax is $0.218 a gallon.
  4. Firearms rights are enshrined in the Bill of Rights while whiskey, rum, tobacco, snuff and refined sugar were taxed from the first days of the republic.
  5. Prior to the 1930’s most transportation infrastructure in the US was built by turnpike, railroad, and canal for profit companies.  The airline industry is already massively subsidized by DOD investments in R&D and operational systems like GPS.  Meanwhile gun owners fund to a great extent most conservation efforts in the US and get no direct benefit in return if they are not a hunter.

Since its inception, Southwest has tried to dodge excise taxes. (They claimed an early exemption from federal taxation as long as they flew only in Texas.) You would think Southwest would be a little more sympathetic to taxed and targeted gun owners instead of treating them as errant sinners.

Maybe gun owners should inform Mr. Kelly that they won’t book flights on Southwest or AirTran until a meaningful apology is proffered.