Nearly two dozen House Democrats are proposing higher taxes on firearms and ammunition and want to link some firearm-related taxes to inflation, just weeks before the midterm elections.
The “Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act,” from Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., and 21 House Democrats, would increase federal excise taxes on all firearms and ammunition. It would also raise taxes on importers, manufacturers and dealers of firearms, as well as any person or entity that transfers ownership of most firearms.
Democrats said the bill is modeled after federal tobacco taxes that generated revenue to fund programs aimed at reducing tobacco use. The gun tax bill would raise as much as $38 million per year and direct that money toward a new Gun Violence Prevention Trust Fund.
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That fund would direct the revenue toward “community-based violence prevention grants; gun violence research; hate crimes prevention and enforcement; and forensic examiner training.”
“Not one penny of current federal excise taxes on guns and ammunition goes to gun violence prevention,” said Davis. “The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act is an important part of comprehensive gun violence prevention because it creates guaranteed annual funding to stop gun violence via a small increase of 0.5% in existing excise gun and ammunition taxes.”
Under current law, the federal excise tax on pistols and revolvers is 10%, which would be increased to 10.5% under the Democratic bill. The excise tax on other firearms and shells/cartridges is 11%, which would increase to 11.5%.
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Current law also holds that firearm importers and manufacturers must pay an annual tax of $500 or $1,000, depending on the size of the business. Under the Democratic bill, that amount would inflation-adjusted each year, as would the $200 transfer tax that must be paid when a firearm is sold.
The legislation is the latest sign that Democrats believe gun control is a winning issue for them as the midterm elections approach. In late August, President Joe Biden said he is “determined to ban assault weapons in this country,” and several Democrats have campaigned on the idea that access to guns is behind increasing gun violence.
“It’s time to ban these,” Biden said. “It’s time to ban these weapons. We did it before and we can do it again.”
Republicans have rejected these arguments and say Democrats’ support for soft sentencing and the “defund the police” movement has emboldened criminals. The GOP says weakening Americans’ Second Amendment rights would only hurt efforts to curb violence.
At the Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday, Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told a story about how a man with a gun stopped another man at a shooting in a Texas church in 2017, and was interrupted with a heckler who shouted that violence doesn’t stop violence. “It actually is the only thing that does,” Cruz replied.