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 a a 10-11% 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.
- Making its appearance for the third year in a row, the Firearm and Ammunition Tax bill has once again resurfaced in the California Legislature.
- Assembly Bill 28, if passed, would impose a 10-11% tax on all firearm and ammunition sales in the state. Previous versions of this policy failed to pass during 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, despite numerous attempts to move the bill forward through procedural maneuvers and last-minute amendments.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is actively opposing this legislation and has been working with national and in-state coalition partners in opposition to this bill since its first introduction in 2021.
The Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill has once again resurfaced in the California legislature after being defeated during the 2021 and 2022 sessions. Assembly Bill 28, the latest version of the proposal to impose a 10-11% tax on firearm and ammunition sales, passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 11 and is now scheduled for a public hearing on April 24 in the Assembly Revenue and Tax Committee.
The Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill, originally AB 1223, was introduced during the 2021 legislative session and was allegedly designed to “mirror” the federal excise tax paid by sportsmen and women to fund conservation efforts via the Pittman-Robertson Act. The revenue in this case, however, would not be used to fund conservation and would instead go to a program designed to counteract the effects of illegal criminal activity. 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 carried over to the 2022 session. Having not received a floor vote by the January 31, 2022 deadline, the proposal should have been defeated for the biennial session, yet proponents once again maneuvered their proposal forward by commandeering AB 1227 through a “gut and amend” tactic. The bill ultimately failed to pass in 2022 but has now been reintroduced as Assembly Bill 28.
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, firearms and ammunition purchased by California’s hunters and recreational shooters are already taxed at 10-11% at the manufacturer level through a federal excise tax. This excise tax is then apportioned to the states by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which underwrites a large portion of California’s wildlife management, conservation, and research efforts. AB 28, if passed, 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 from which all California residents enjoy.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has opposed the proposed tax since its introduction and recently joined with coalition partners to submit a letter to the Assembly committees ahead of the scheduled public hearings. CSF will continue to oppose AB 28 as it moves forward in the legislature.