Two Assemblymen’s newly merged ammunition tax bill was approved Monday by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.
AB 187, authored by Assemblymen Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, would place a 10 percent tax on all ammunition sold in California, with an exemption for law enforcement agencies. The committee’s final tally isn’t yet available, but I’m betting it’ll have been a straight party-line vote.
Under the amended version put forth just before Monday’s hearing, the new tax’s revenue – about $92.4 million per year, according to a Board of Equalization estimate – would be split between crime prevention efforts in areas hard-hit by gun violence and mental health screening and services for children.
“Cities throughout the state, including Oakland, are suffering horrific and increasing gun violence. Oakland witnessed 131 homicides in 2012 – 21 more than 2011 and the highest in six years. Twelve of those victims were children,” Bonta said in a news release. “AB 187 will provide the City of Oakland, and cities in similar circumstances, with sufficient street-level public safety presence to prevent gun violence and attend to it when it does occur.”
And Dickinson said “screening young children for signs of mental illness and addressing any issues early on is the key to a healthier and more productive adult life. A limited tax on ammunition is a small price to pay for better mental healthcare for kids, reduced crime, and safer communities statewide.”
Gun-rights advocates and lobbying groups say it’s not fair to tax law-abiding gun owners to pay for crime prevention and mental health – services for which the entire public should share the cost.
Bonta’s original version of the bill would’ve imposed a 10 percent tax to be used only for crime prevention. Dickinson’s AB 760 – which will advance no further – would’ve imposed a nickel-per-bullet tax solely for mental health for kids.
Bonta acknowledged in March that an ammunition tax won’t be easy to pass, even with Democratic legislative supermajorities and recent Field Poll findings that 61 percent of California voters favor ammunition taxes and 75 percent favor background checks and permits for ammo purchases. Because a new tax faces the hurdle of a two-thirds vote, “it’s a heavy lift,” Bonta said; indeed, some Democratic lawmakers from more suburban and rural areas of the state have balked at discussing various ammunition taxation and regulation bills now pending.
Bonta chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay, which will hold its first hearing from 9 a.m. to noon this Friday, May 17th at the Elihu M. Harris State Building, 1515 Clay St. in Oakland. Click here for more information or to RSVP to attend the hearing.