By DON THOMPSON
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers for the second year rejected a new tax on gun sales Wednesday, despite their passage of numerous other gun control measures this year.
The money would go toward gun violence prevention, but the bill was seven votes short of the supermajority it needed in the state Senate in an initial vote.
The bill by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine would impose a 10% excise tax on sales of handguns and 11% on sales of rifles and shotguns, ammunition, and parts used to build firearms starting July 1, 2023. His latest version includes an exemption for hunters buying long guns.
The bill stalled when two Democratic senators joined Republicans in opposition, and some other Democrats withheld their votes.
“Why are we taxing these law-abiding people?” asked Republican Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh. “Here we’re taxing them as if they’re criminals.”
“Most of the mass shootings we’ve seen recently have been guns purchased legally,” countered Democratic Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman. “We have too many damn guns.”
Levine’s previous version failed last year when it received 50 of the 54 votes it needed in the Assembly.
Levine’s similar legislation died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in 2019 despite support from a half-dozen California mayors including those in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, and several groups that support gun control.
Proponents said the California tax would be similar to a federal tax of like amount imposed since 1919, with the federal funds going to fund wildlife conservation efforts.
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and other proponents said such a tax in California would be “similarly unlikely to discourage lawful sales and commerce in firearms.” The groups cited a research review by the Rand Corporation that found “moderate tax increases on guns or ammunition would do little to disrupt hunting or recreational gun use.”
Levine estimated his bill would bring in a projected $118 million a year for gun violence prevention programs, education and research.
The California Rifle and Pistol Association said it would immediately sue if the bill became law.
“Penalizing the lawful for the misdeeds of the unlawful seems misdirected and punitive,” said Gun Owners of California.