Taxes doubled on guns and ammunition will now be enforced in the state of California, for the purpose of having more funding for security at public schools and violence prevention programs. This was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom a week ago.
Taxes on ammunition and guns have already been established from 10 to 11 percent by the federal government, now adding another 11 percent by the recently signed law. California is the only state to have done this so far, with some of the strictest gun laws in the country.
With speculation that Newsom will run for president later this decade and being known as a prominent liberal governor, raising taxes in California hasn't been a common predictor from him as those expected.
This tax increase for guns and ammunition though, was nothing of a shock. Currently, Newsom is the forefront of a nationwide campaign that would change the U.S. Constitution with a new amendment that includes restricting gun sales to people over 21, requiring extensive background checks, imposing a waiting period for purchases and ban the sale of assault-style weapons. These restrictions are implemented in certain states, but not in the Constitution.
With the very low likeliness to succeed, it still gives great exposure to Newsom for Democrats all over the country, leading to a good start on a possibly presidency run that hasn't even started for him.
Newsom said he viewed the tax as different than other general tax increases that he tends to oppose. He argued that gun violence already costs taxpayers a lot of money in health impacts and in the criminal justice system.
"I think this is a pretty modest investment in prevention and reducing those costs ultimately ... The carnage, it's too much. We can't normalize it, we can't accept it. This is a small price to pay," he said.
Last week, another law was also signed by the governor pertaining to carrying concealed weapons, banning them to not be held by an individual in almost all public areas. The new rules are a reaction to a new standard for interpreting the nation's gun laws that the U.S. Supreme Court issued last year.
One other law signed that will be enforced starting in 2028, would be all semiautomatic pistols solde in the state would be required to have microstamping technology. Each bullet would have its unique marking for recording purposes that involve crimes, making it easier to track who had purchased and used the bullets.
Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, criticized the new laws, claiming they are unconstitutional.
"These laws will not make us safer. They are an unconstitutional retaliatory and vindictive response to the Supreme Court's affirmation that the Second Amendment protects an individuals' right to choose to own a firearm for sport or to defend your family," he said. "They are being challenged, and the second they are signed, the clock starts ticking towards a judgment striking them down."
Local governments have certain restrictions and adjusted taxes for guns and ammunitions, but California tops everywhere else. According to news sources, “Tennessee once had a 10-cent tax on shotgun shells, but that tax was repealed in 2019. Pennsylvania collects a $3 surcharge on gun sales to pay for background checks. Fees on California gun purchases currently total more than $37, with most of that money paying for background checks.”
"Taxing firearm sales to fund violence intervention programs is essential to interrupting the cycle of violence and stopping gun violence before it begins, and we encourage other states to follow suit," said Kris Brown, president of Brady, a gun research group.
Federal tax on guns has been implemented for over 100 years, and no lawsuit has reversed that economic requirement. Money from the tax goes straight to the states, mostly used for wildlife conservation and hunter-safety programs.
The California Rifle and Pistol Association will be suing the new tax in court, but it is planning to be unsuccessful. Yet, the tax has some exceptions on what it counts for.
Police officers and their departments as well as businesses that make less than $5,000 for every three months would be exempted from the tax. State officials predict it would generate about $159 million annually.
The law states that the first $75 million made from the tax must go to the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program. The program funds projects that assist youth and young people who are involved in gang life, getting services and opportunities such as sports programs and tattoo removal.
Afterwards, $50 million would go to the State Department of Education to boost security at public schools. California is one of the top states to have the lowest gun death rates in the United States, with 9 deaths for every 100,000 people, according to 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.