Democrats Propose Taxes on Guns and Ammo to Curb Violence

Democrat lawmakers are again pushing a measure aimed at curbing gun violence, in this case by making it more expensive for all gun buyers to purchase handguns and ammo by increasing federal taxes on the sale and transfer of guns.

William Pascrell, a Democrat representative from New Jersey, and Danny Davis, a Democrat representative from Illinois, are the sponsors of the measure known as the Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act.  The measure would increase the tax collected on handgun sales from 11 percent to 20 percent and on handgun ammo sales from 11 percent to 50 percent.

In addition, the bill would increase the tax on the transfer of many guns between private individuals 20 fold.

“As a former mayor of one of the largest cities in New Jersey, I know how critical the issue of reducing gun violence is to our communities,” said Pascrell.  “All across our country, local police departments have had their budgets slashed and been forced to lay off officers, reducing their ability to protect our communities from the scourge of gun violence.”

“It has been well over two decades since tax rates were last adjusted on firearms and ammunition, and I believe it is appropriate that we look to these taxes as a way to direct additional resources to law enforcement, background checks, and gun violence research.  This bill represents a major investment in the protection of our children and our communities and reflects the long-term societal costs of gun and ammunition purchases in our country,” Pascrell continued.

Pascrell and Davis believe the bill would generate over $600 million annually in additional tax revenue.  Current tax revenue on gun and ammo sales is only approximately $500 million annually at present, compared to annual tax revenue on alcohol sales of almost $8 billion and on tobacco sales of almost $15 billion.

They are proposing that these tax dollars be used to fund law enforcement agencies and other programs aimed at curbing gun violence.

“This legislation is a pro-active approach to reducing gun violence by using proven preventive programs which have been starved for funds until now,” Davis said.  “As part of a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy to reduce gun violence, this legislation closes major loopholes in tax law and lays out an equitable, long term, sustainable strategy to provide the requisite resources.”

The bill would apply only to private individuals, not law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.

Critics of the proposed legislation were quick to point out flaws with the measure.  The primary concern is that the measure applies to all gun owners, apparently attempting to make the legal purchase of certain firearms and handguns simply unaffordable for many who have the right to make those purchases.

“What the anti-gun interests can’t ban, they want to tax out of existence,” noted Alan Gottlieb, chairman for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.  “It’s nothing more than [a] confiscatory taxation.”

“I doubt this bill will pass, but we will lobby against it if need be,” Gottlieb continued.  “This is simply another shot against gun owners in this country.”

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill when they return to session in the fall.

by Mark Johnston

Mark has been a contributor to legal web sites related to bankruptcy, tax, and criminal law since 2011. He has an Accounting degree from Texas A&M University.