Why It Matters: California’s law-abiding hunters and recreational shooters have long played a vital role in funding conservation through various wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays — public benefits” program, 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.
- Assembly Bill 28 (AB 28), which would impose an 11% tax on all firearm and ammunition sales in the state, passed the California Senate Public Safety Committee on July 11. The bill will now head to Appropriations before making its way to the Senate floor.
- The passage of this bill out of the Senate committee marks the furthest this policy has advanced in the California legislature. 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 introduction in 2021.
On July 11, the Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill passed out of the Senate Public Safety Committee, marking the furthest this policy has advanced in the California legislature. Assembly Bill 28, the latest version of the proposal to impose an 11% tax on firearm and ammunition sales, previously passed the Assembly floor with the 2/3 required vote needed to advance to the Senate. The bill will now head to Appropriations and then will move to the Senate floor for a vote.
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 that aids the negative 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 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 is unfortunately advancing through the legislature this session.
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, and research and other conservation 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 benefit.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has opposed the proposed tax since its introduction. CSF and coalition partners submitted letters to each committee considering the bill, and also issued a floor alert ahead of the May 25 Assembly floor vote. CSF will continue to oppose AB 28 as it moves forward in the legislature and encourages all California residents to contact their Senator to voice their concerns.