May 16, 2022

Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill Resurfaces in the California Legislature

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Manager, Pacific Region

Why It Matters: California’s law-abiding hunters and recreational 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 being defeated in 2021 and failing to meet legislative cutoff deadlines earlier this year, the proposed tax on firearm and ammunition purchases has once again resurfaced in the California legislature in the form of Assembly Bill 1227. Utilizing “gut and amend” tactics, proponents stripped the language from AB 1227, which was originally introduced as a solar energy efficiency bill, and instead replaced it with the language from the defeated AB 1223 that seeks to impose a 10-11% tax on all firearm and ammunition purchases in the state.

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 that aids 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 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 have once again maneuvered their proposal forward by commandeering AB 1227.

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 through the purchase of sporting-related goods. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act, California’s hunters and recreational shooters pay a 10-11% 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. AB 1227, 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 (CSF) has been opposed to the proposed tax from its introduction, testifying before both Assembly committees and joining coalition partners in submitting several opposition letters. CSF will continue to work with partners in opposition to AB 1227 and encourages all California residents to contact their state Senator and urge them to vote “No” on this bill should it make its way to the Senate floor. CSF will continue to keep you updated on the status of the legislation. 

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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