Detonics 45 by MIKI Yoshihito is licensed under Attribution (CC BY 2.0)

An 11% excise tax on firearm and ammunition sales – the first of its kind nationwide – was signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom last year. Starting July 1, 2024, this tax will be imposed in addition to the existing federal government sales tax of 10% or 11% — depending on the type of firearm — after the California Assembly failed to pass similar legislation half a dozen times over the past decade. Estimates suggest that this will total to a $160 million tax hike in a state that already places enormous tax burdens on its citizens. 

Now, other states are eager to become the next jurisdiction to levy this excessive new tax that is sure to drive up the cost of owning a gun. Taxing ammunition infringes on the constitutional right to bear a firearm and makes it much more challenging for families to protect themselves. 

In Washington State, Democratic representatives are proposing legislation that would implement a user tax on the “privilege” of buying ammunition. House Bill 2238, like in California, would impose an 11% sales and use tax on ammunition.  This is in addition to preexisting state, federal, and local sales and use taxes on ammunition.   

In New Mexico, Senate Bill 90 looked to implement similar taxes. This bill would have imposed an 11% excise tax on ammunitions, as well as the actual firearm itself and firearm parts. The faulty language of this bill also implies that if a firearm is gifted to another person, the recipient would also have to pay this 11% tax.  

Maryland’s General Assembly is also exploring the opportunity to impose an 11% excise tax on certain firearm retailers. This tax would not directly tax consumers, but they will still foot the bill. Suppliers will be forced to increase prices to offset these excessively burdensome costs. Estimates predict that this will result in a $13 million tax hike.   

At the federal level, Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) has taken these concepts to the extreme by absurdly proposing a 1000% tax on guns and high-capacity magazines. His idea, known as the Assault Weapons Excise Tax, currently has 36 Democratic co-sponsors. This tax essentially all but bans the purchase of numerous semiautomatic rifles by severely hindering financial accessibility; economists have determined that this will tax all but the super-rich out of the firearms marketplace.  

The purpose of ammunition taxes is nothing more than inhibiting law abiding citizens from having the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Preventing access to guns and ammo via taxation serves as a de facto ban, and puts the safety of families across the nation at risk. The precedent set by California and the proposals being circulated in Maryland, New Mexico, and Washington set a dangerous tone for the future of Americans’ basic constitutional rights.