January 28, 2022

California Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill Could Receive a Floor Vote on Monday

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Pacific States Assistant Manager 

Why it matters: California’s law-abiding hunters and shooters have long played a vital role in funding conservation and wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays-public benefits” structure, California’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. These funds are generated through license sales and an 11% federal excise tax on sporting-related goods, including firearms and ammunition. Decreased firearm and ammunition purchases that result from additional taxes and costs would have a negative impact on conservation funding in the state.   

After a rollercoaster of procedural moves during the 2021 session, AB 1223 is now active once again in the California legislature. AB 1223 would impose a 10-11% tax on all firearm and ammunition purchases in the state. This bill was allegedly designed to “mirror” the federal excise tax paid by sportsmen and women to fund conservation efforts via the Pittman-Robertson Act. However, the revenue in this case would not be used to fund conservation, and would instead go to a program that would fund, “gun violence prevention programs.” 

This bill was defeated on the floor during the 2021 session, however proponents used procedural maneuvers to add an “urgency clause” to the legislation, which exempted the bill from regular deadlines and rules, and allowed the bill to be brought up for another floor vote at any time during the session, including now. The bill’s proponent has since been working to shore up the additional votes needed to pass the legislation, which is why it is critical for California residents to make their voice heard by contacting their Assembly member and urging a “No” vote on AB 1223. 

Each year, California’s sportsmen and women contribute tens of millions of dollars to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, providing vital revenue to help carry out their mission of managing the state’s diverse fish and wildlife, and the habitats upon which they depend. These funds are generated through fishing and hunting license sales, and also through the purchase of sporting-related goods. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act, California’s hunters and recreational shooters pay an 11% excise tax on all firearm and ammunition purchases, which in turn funds a large portion of the state’s wildlife management, conservation, and research efforts. If passed, AB 1223 would place an additional tax on top of the existing taxes, thereby driving up the costs of these goods, reducing their sales, and in turn, reducing the conservation funding which all California residents enjoy.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been opposed to AB 1223 from its introduction, testifying before both Assembly committees and joining coalition partners in submitting several opposition letters. If the bill fails to receive a floor vote on January 31st, or is defeated on the floor, it is still possible for the bill sponsor to reintroduce the proposal as a new piece of legislation by the February 18th bill introduction deadline. CSF will continue to work in opposition to this proposed tax and will keep you updated throughout the process.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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