Newly merged ammunition tax bill advances

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.

Rob Bonta“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.

ammoBonta 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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Felix Hunziker

    This makes perfect sense. After all, it’s those damn, penny-saving law-abiding gunowners who buy ammo by the case who are responsible for gun violence, not those poor, underserved kids who only have a dozen stolen rounds in their pockets.

    /sarcasm. These Dems have lost their effing minds and would apparently reinstitute poll taxes if they thought they could pass it.

  • Max Allstadt

    It makes sense to require ID for ammunition purposes, and require a handgun safety certificate for purchasing handgun ammunition. That would make it harder for people with illegal guns to buy ammunition.

    The problem with the Tax is not whether it’s “fair” or not. The problem is that it incentivizes illegal ammunition sales. Raise the price of ammo 10%, and we help justify the effort of going to Nevada, Oregon or Arizona to buy bulk ammo to bring back and sell on the black market.

    Also, a law that made online and mail order ammunition purchases illegal in California was recently ruled unconstitutional. It will be interesting to see if the new tax can be applied to out of state mail orders, and if any attempt to enforce it out of state will stand legal challenge.

    Fundamentally, the illegal gun problem in places like Oakland may be exacerbated because a black market will thrive in a state with very strict gun laws that is surrounded by states with weak gun laws.

    California as a whole has a slightly lower homicide rate than the states that surround it. But we also have urban hotbeds of violence where there is strong incentive for people to want illegal guns. Without federal background checks, this won’t change, and the black market will thrive.

  • Felix Hunziker

    Max, online purchases are critical for gunowners but under current ammo reg bills those will have to be shipped to an FFL who will slap a $50 transfer fee on it same as for a firearm. Chain stores like Big 5 will stop selling ammo because overhead costs will be too high and they already don’t do PPT’s, they just sell what’s in their inventory. So you’re basically going to have to be rich to buy ammo, if you’re not too bad.

    I think you make a good point about the black market. Incidentally, 70% of crime guns recovered in CA originated in CA. The argument about out of state gun laws is a red herring.

    What gets me in the end is that felons caught with firearms typically have only a couple boxes of ammo in their possession and fire less than that when they commit their crimes. And yet these idiots in the Legislature want to crack down hard on the other 99.7% of CA residents who aren’t out shooting people. It’s madness.

  • Felix Hunziket

    BTW, the 70% stat is from ATF data for 2010-2011 and the felon ammo possession stat is from a veteran officer and firearms expert at Richmond PD.

  • Elwood

    We need another Assembly Select Committee.

    Like we need the plague.

    Come to think of it, a pretty good case can be made that the CA leg. is a plague.

  • RR senile columnist

    Guys and gals who don’t buy ammo think this is a great idea. I guess for progressive Californios ammo is up there with cigarettes—tax it out of existence. Now we can prosecute gangstas for tax evasion and fraud.

  • MichaelB


    The tax is not “fair” period. A tax on a Constitutional right? What’s next?

    The overwhelming amount of ammunition sales are to those who are law abiding and have nothing to do with “gun violence”. A father taking his son to a gun club to use firearms in a safe/responsible manner needs to be taxed to “prevent gun violence” because he “contributes to it” by what he’s doing? This is madness.

    The problem is the reasoning process of the people sponsoring this type of legislation. Guns/ammunition somehow “cause” violence but criminals do not. And of course, it’s “for the children” and “modest”. How predictable.

  • We must remember that most of what this administration is doing has just one goal, and that is to control every facet of our lives. This is not an anti-crime bill, or even a revenue bill as much as it is a part of the strategy to control the people of the United States.

  • dennis taylor

    If this bill passes then all that will happen is ammo sales in Calf will dry up and dealers will go out of business but ammo will be coming in from out of state by the truckload and the black market will supply the demand,what part of shall not be infringed do the Californians not understand?