California Firearm Tax Bill Fails on Assembly Floor; Revived by Procedural Maneuvers

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Assistant Manager, Pacific States

Highlights

  • On June 3, Assembly Bill 1223 (AB 1223) that would impose a 10-11% tax on firearm and ammunition sales, failed to pass during an Assembly Floor vote.
  • Using procedural maneuvers in a last-ditch effort to save the bill, AB 1223 was amended on June 10 to include an “urgency clause.” Adding this clause exempts the bill from regular legislative deadlines and rules and allows the bill to receive another floor vote at any time. 
  • If passed, the additional tax imposed by AB 1223 would drive up the costs of firearms and ammunition, deter purchases, and consequentially have a negative impact on California’s fish and wildlife through reduced conservation funding.

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.  

Assembly Bill 1223 (AB 1223), which would impose an 11% tax on all long gun and ammunition purchases, along with a 10% tax on handgun sales, failed to pass during an Assembly floor vote on June 3. Members of the California Outdoor Legislative Sporting Caucus helped prevent AB 1223 from moving forward, with the bill ultimately falling eight “aye” votes short of passing. Unfortunately, AB 1223 has since been revived after an “urgency clause” was added to the bill on June 10. This amendment exempts AB 1223 from certain legislative rules and deadlines, thereby allowing the bill to receive another Assembly floor vote at any time.

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 1223, 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. AB 1223 is said to “mirror” the federal excise already paid by sportsmen and women, yet none of the revenue would be used to fund conservation. Instead, it would go to a program that helps deal with criminal activity.

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. CSF will continue to work with partners in opposition to the bill.

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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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