A new law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom will double taxes on guns and ammunition and use the money to pay for more security at public schools and gun violence prevention programs, including those focused toward young people in gangs.
The state firearms tax will add another 11 percent tax to the federal excise tax of 10 percent or 11 percent, depending on the type of gun, and makes California the only state with its own tax on guns and ammunition, per AP.
The tax would not apply to police officers and it would not apply to businesses with sales under $5,000 over a three-month period.
According to a statement from the governor’s office on Tuesday, California officials estimate it will “generate $160 million annually to fund school safety and violence prevention programs, including initiatives to prevent school shootings, bolster firearm investigations, reduce retaliatory violence, and remove guns from domestic abusers.”
Newsom stated that “California’s gun death rate is 43% lower than the rest of the nation” and the new legistlation “will make our communities and families safer.”
In a Tuesday press conference the governor said that the new tax was “a pretty modest investment in prevention,” adding, “The carnage, it’s too much. We can’t normalize it, we can’t accept it. This is a small price to pay.”
The laws were among the more than 20 bills Newsom signed that day, but he acknowledged that many of the measures may not pass a new standard on interpreting the nation’s gun laws that the U.S. Supreme Court issued last year.
“It may mean nothing if the federal courts are throwing them out,” Newsom said, per AP. “We feel very strongly that these bills meet the (new standard), and they were drafted accordingly. But I’m not naive about the recklessness of the federal courts and the ideological agenda.”
The governor also signed a law that would require all semiautomatic pistols sold in California to use microstamping technology, giving each bullet would a unique marking and making it easier for law enforcement to identify the gun it was fired from.
President of the California Rifle and Pistol Association Chuck Michel called the new laws unconstitutional. “These laws will not make us safer. They are an unconstitutional retaliatory and vindictive response to the Supreme Court’s affirmation that the Second Amendment protects an individuals’ right to choose to own a firearm for sport or to defend your family,” he said. “They are being challenged, and the second they are signed, the clock starts ticking towards a judgment striking them down.”
While California has some of the lowest gun death rates in the country, according to 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearms have contributed to an uptick in the state’s violent crime rates over the last several years, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Funds from the first $75 million of the state firearms tax will go to the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program, according to the new law. The next $50 million would be allocated to the State Department of Education for security improvement at public schools including safety assessments, after-school programs for at-risk students and mental and behavioral health services for students, teachers and other school employees.
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