October 17, 2023

Governor Newsom Signs California Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill into Law

Article Contact: Keely Hopkins,

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% manufacturer-level 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. 

Highlights:

  • On September 26, Assembly Bill 28 (AB 28), which will impose an 11% tax on all firearm and ammunition sales in the state, was signed into law by California Governor Newsom and will take effect on July 1, 2024.
  • AB 28 is inherently different from the excise taxes levied on firearms and ammunition through the Pittman-Robertson Act, which are placed on manufacturers, rather than taxing an individual’s right to purchase a firearm or ammunition.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) actively opposed this misguided policy since it was first introduced in 2021 and was on the ground in Sacramento throughout the 2023 legislative session to advocate against AB 28.

After three years of strong oppositional efforts from the hunting conservation community, Assembly Bill 28 has been signed into law by Governor Newsom. Once implemented, AB 28 will impose an 11% tax on all firearm and ammunition sales in the state. The bill was allegedly designed to “mirror” the excise tax paid under the Pittman-Robertson Act, but AB 28 is inherently different because this tax is not placed on manufacturers, but instead taxes an individual’s right to purchase a firearm or ammunition.

The Firearm and Ammunition Tax Bill, originally AB 1223, was first introduced during the 2021 legislative session. The bill was defeated on the floor, 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 unfortunately garnered the requisite support to pass the legislature this year.

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, firearms and ammunition purchased by California’s hunters and recreational shooters are already taxed at the manufacturer-level through a 10-11% excise tax, which in turn funds a large portion of the state’s wildlife management, research, and other conservation efforts. AB 28 will now place an additional tax on top of these 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 actively opposed the Firearm and Ammunition Tax since it was first introduced in 2021 and was on the ground in Sacramento to advocate against this misguided policy during the 2023 legislative session. CSF’s Western States & Firearm Policy Manager Keely Hopkins and California’s Hunting and Conservation Coalition President Bill Gaines recently joined CSF’s Fred Bird on The Sportsmen’s Voice Podcast for an in depth look at the harmful effects of this bill. Be sure to tune in on all main streaming services to listen to Episode 4 of The Sportsmen’s Voice Podcast for more information about AB 28.

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