After a year of record gun sales, advocates mull over how a new tax could save lives

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Could California’s proposal be a “model for the nation”?

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This is a part of the report”Gun Violence ReconsideredAn ABC News series examining the level of gun violence in America – and what can be done about it.

Although taxing guns or ammunition may not prevent malicious actors from accessing them, some policymakers and advocates say the approach could increase revenue to fund life-saving violence prevention programs and should Might help offset. $280 billion annual price tag of gun violence in America.

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Yet resistance to raising taxes is as embedded in the fabric of American society as the right to bear arms, both sentiments rooted in the founding of the nation. While a federal gun tax has been in place for decades, some attribute these unique political and social factors in America as well as an aggressive industry lobby to the struggles that new tax proposals are facing at the state and local level.

After a year that saw record-high 21 million gun sales (revealed by data on background checks) and record-high gun deaths (34,274 in 2021 alone, per Gun Violence Archive data), some are at it again. are considering how a tax plan could be used to reduce carnage seen in places such as schools, grocery stores and homes.

Here’s how advocates argue that a tax could be used as a policy lever in a holistic approach to reducing gun violence—with the goal of preventing people from buying guns, but Americans To withdraw revenue from industry profits to raise billions for. Community

Look back tomorrow, when we see whether therapy is effective at ending the cycle of gun violence.

California’s proposal could be ‘model for the country’

A particularly bloody summer in California this year prompted lawmakers to propose a tax on guns and ammo specifically to generate revenue to fund community-based prevention programs. AB1223, which would have added an excise duty of 10% on handgun sales and 11% on long guns, preformed parts and ammunition, fell four votes short of a supermajority lead in the state assembly last summer, but it again Destined to be – Introduced in January.

“This tax is for funding gun violence prevention programs,” California Assemblyman Amber Mark Levine, a Democrat who helped draft the proposed legislation, told ABC News. “It’s something everyone can agree on.”

Levine told ABC News that California lawmakers are weighing heavily as they consider the bill, specifically redistribution as they can redeploy the areas they represent, “whether their district Will become more conservative, more anti-tax, more pro-gun? Or are they more concerned about safety and ending gun violence?”

Republican opponents of the bill have argued that it is unconstitutional.

“This is a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, told ABC News. “It is unconstitutional to require excise, insurance, any monetary requirement before a person can exercise an enumerated constitutional right.”

Ari Frelich, state policy director of the Giffords Law Center for Preventing Gun Violence, said a federal tax on guns and ammo has been in place for decades: a 10% tax on the sale of pistols and revolvers and an 11% tax on other firearms and ammunition. According to Freilich, the revenue raised is primarily used to fund wildlife conservation efforts and education programs for hunters.

“Reasonable people may disagree,” Frelich told ABC News, discussing the feasibility of a gun tax, “but the courts are very clear, and federal law is in place — a similar tax at the federal level, in fact — to for over a century.”

Freilich said the proposal in California is “deliberately in line with federal taxation,” with the goal of helping “remove the impacts that similar products have on human populations and families, as well as wildlife.”

generated some $1 billion in excise taxes on hunting, shooting and other outdoor sporting equipment in 2019, according to the interior department,

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Similar initiatives to tax guns or ammo have been made locally in Seattle and Cook County, Illinois, and both have faced rocky rollouts and strong resistance from the gun industry.

In Seattle, requiring retailers to pay a $25 tax on each firearm sold and a few cents per round of ammunition was passed by city lawmakers in 2015, with the proceeds used for programs related to gun violence. was to be done. It has been challenged, but the most recent case against overturning it has been dismissed by the Washington Supreme Court.

In an analysis of the country’s firearm industry trade association Seattle’s tax pulled up , adding that only $85,352 was generated in 2019, much less than the initial annual estimate of $500,000.

In Cook County, which also includes Chicago, a similar $25 tax on firearm sales and a tax of up to 5 percent on ammunition cartridges approved in 2012 was repealed by the Illinois Supreme Court earlier this month. The Illinois High Court ruled that the taxes violated the uniformity clause of the state’s constitution, meaning the government would have to establish that the tax classification is largely related to the law’s purpose.

“The relationship between tax classification and the use of tax proceeds is not sufficiently tied to the stated purpose of reducing those costs,” Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote to her. View, “Under the simple language of the ordinances, revenue generated from the firearm tax is not directed specifically to any fund or program related to preventing the cost of gun violence.”

The ruling, however, could leave the door open for a narrow gun violence tax approach. While Justice Michael J. Burke agreed with the decision, adding in an opinion: “The analysis of the majority is problematic because it leaves room for the municipality to implement a future tax – the sale of guns and ammunition – that would be more narrow.” specifically tailored with the aim of reducing gun violence.”

The new gun tax, opponents have argued, could also force law-abiding buyers of guns and ammo to seek private sellers or underground markets. Restrictions on the sale of personal firearms vary from state to state and tracking those sales has proven difficult.

Robert McClelland, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said, “Unfortunately we have very little information, very little data to work with – there aren’t many high-quality studies trying to look at this issue. ” told ABC News. A tax proposed in California “actually penalizes people who are high-volume users, who are going to be target shooters or hunters.”

“I don’t know if it’s really the same people who are responsible for most gun violence, but it’s unlikely,” he said. “So having an ammunition seems like it’s headed in the wrong direction.”

According to McClelland, for any potential reduction in sales as a result of the tax, “for people who are on the borderline between buying and not buying, yes, you will see fewer purchases. I would expect a lot of people to make a big impact.” Will go on private sale for used handguns and used firearms.”

Research Compiled by Rosanna Smart, an economist at the RAND Corporation, found that nearly 40% of adult male inmate respondents at the Cook County Jail in Chicago acquired firearms through means other than purchase or trade.

Opponents of the measure in Seattle said it was all costing the city’s existing sales tax revenue.

“The outdoor emporium moved out of Seattle after the owner saw a $2 million loss in revenue, saw a 32% drop in customer traffic and was forced to lay off three employees,” said the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association. Posted by Editorial of 2020 , states. “Precision Shooter, another business that was based in Seattle, closed its store and opened in nearby Linwood.”

McClelland said shops running along city lines probably wouldn’t be a big issue if California passed a similar bill in this case, but it’s still difficult to keep guns out of the hands of people with malicious intent.

“I don’t know why people with criminal intent are more vulnerable to firearms purchases than other people – I don’t know why they would be,” he said.

Smart’s research for Rand has little evidence of whether taxation affects gun violence, which is due, at least in part, to the fact that it has been tried so often.

According to Rand: “Overall, researchers currently have little empirical evidence to show how taxation will affect firearms-related outcomes, such as violent crime or suicide, or to establish whether firearms or ammunition are used.” How would imposing a tax on firearms prices, firearms supplies, or defensive gun use.

‘Not looking for punishment’

Freilich said those pushing for taxes on guns and bullets need to focus their attention on explaining how the new revenue could prevent future violence.

“I think the tax is not what is in effect, but it is what the tax fund is,” Frelich said. “This is really important: We emphasize that we are not looking at tax to solve all of our problems – what really matters is what we are funding, what are we investing in. Are you?”

Advocates say it is vitally important that resolutions like California’s are not considered punitive, and that even if they pass, additional solutions will be needed.

“I think something important is that the tax be a fair, modest tax on a profitable industry that has had a year of record sales at a time of record spikes in gun violence,” Frelich said. “We are not essentially looking to penalize anyone for stopping someone from buying a weapon, but asking a very profitable industry to pay a modest surcharge on their profits because of their products. To help in doing effective work in preventing the huge losses that may occur.”

If a federal tax on guns and gunpowder could be used to protect wildlife, he continued, “I think it is very fitting that we have a similar law at the state or federal level, …

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