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Gun Rights Group Sue to Stop California’s New Firearms Excise Tax

— July 5, 2024

A Firearms Policy Coalition official compared the new tax to “Jim Crow” laws, saying that gun dealers will pass the increased costs on to their customers.

Gun rights groups have filed a lawsuit challenging a recently-passed California law subjecting firearms purchases to additional tax.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the complaint was filed earlier this by attorneys from the Firearms Policy Coalition. The plaintiffs include the National Rifle Association, the California Rifle & Pistol Association, and the Second Amendment Foundation.

The lawsuit challenges provisions of California Assembly Bill 28, which applies an 11% excise tax on the sale of all new firearms, firearm parts, and ammunition. The state has estimated that the tax will help generate $159 million in first-year tax revenue—money that will be used to fund gang- and gun violence-related programs.

However, the Firearms Policy Coalition and its clients have condemned the initiative, alleging that the Supreme Court has “repeatedly held that constitutional rights cannot be singled out for special taxation.”

A close-up image of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Steve Rainwater. (CCA-BY-2.0)

“Here, California effectively seeks the power to destroy the exercise of a constitutional right by singling it out for special taxation,” the lawsuit claims. “If this tax is permitted, there is nothing stopping California from imposing a 50% or even 100% tax on a constitutional right it disfavors—whether it be the right to keep and bear arms, the right to free exercise of religion, or any other right.”

Brandon Combs, the Firearms Policy Coalition’s president, compared A.B. 28 with a “Jim Crow law,” which “targets people and rights hated by tyrants like Gov. Gavin Newsom.”

“Thankfully,” Combs said, “the Constitution forbids California’s political warfare scheme. FPC and our allies are committed to restoring the right to keep and bear arms in California and throughout the United States.”

The NRA emphasized that, though the bill’s provisions levy tax only on firearm dealers, any costs they incur will almost certainly be passed on to consumers.

“California’s firearms excise tax is a blatant and egregious attack on the rights of Californians and a calculated maneuver to dismantle the Secondment Amendment,” said Randy Kozuch, the executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action.

Officials from the governor’s office have since defended the law, saying that the costs of gun violence outweigh those imposed by the state’s excise tax.

“This is a modest investment in gun violence prevention programs that are proven to work,” said Newsome spokesman Daniel Villasenor. “There’s a reason California is ranked the No. 1 state for gun safety—and we won’t back down from defending common-sense policies like this, that can help save lives.”


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