Customers at The Range in Northwest Fresno fire off a few rounds. After July 1, sales of all ammunition and firearms will include an additional 11% tax on top of state and local taxes. Photo by Ben Hensley

published on July 10, 2024 - 2:53 PM
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A handful of new California laws went into effect July 1, with a heavy emphasis on promoting safety, and while a majority of these new laws don’t necessarily threaten businesses, one specific law has both gun owners and sellers unsure about the future of an industry that has long represented American civil liberties.

Approved by the governor last September, AB 28 adds an 11% tax to all firearm and direct firearm-related purchases including ammunition and some firearm accessories.

That tax is in addition to local and state sales taxes and federal excise taxes, which already rise as high as 11%. California’s sales tax is 6%, meaning that, with the addition of the new tax, buyers will look to pay as much as a 28% tax on firearms and firearm accessories.

Needless to say, gun owners and gun store owners alike are not happy.

“They say it’s going to go towards more gun laws…nothing that they’ve done now, so far, has worked,” said Karen Newman, purchasing manager at Valley Rod & Gun in Clovis. “They’re [Sacramento legislators] just stockpiling their bank [accounts], not ours — not helping out the general public.”

Valley Rod & Gun, which no longer sells firearms but does still sell accessories, including ammunition, celebrated 31 years in business on June 30. Many of the store’s long-time customers also voiced their displeasure with the new laws.

Akena Caudillo, another manager at Valley Rod & Gun, said that many customers levied blame at Democratic voters, blaming Liberal politics for the added restrictions.

They also blamed elected officials themselves.

“A lot of it is also on Gavin Newsom,” she added. “They blame it on the blues [Democrats] here in California or they blame it on Gavin Newsom.”

The tax, which looks to generate approximately $159 million in annual revenue, will be reinvested into community efforts beginning with the first $75 million, which would go to the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program. That program funds projects that target at-risk young people in gangs.

The ensuing $50 million would go towards physical security improvements at school sites, as well as after-school programs for at-risk youth and mental and behavioral health for students.

“Don’t let politics stand in the way of saving the lives of our children and providing mental health care in our school districts,” said Sen. Anthony Portantino in a story published by KCRA in Sacramento last year. “Fear should not be on the brow of a parent when they send their kids to school.”

Joshua Simpson, an owner of The Range, a shooting range and gun store in Northwest Fresno, said that the implementation of the new tax was not only confusing to owners and employees, but unnecessary, arguing that another simple change could have easily generated the revenue without adding additional sales tax.

“They made it really complicated for no reason,” he said. “They could have just increased the registration fee; it could have easily fixed all of the issues.”

Simpson said that even until the day prior to the implementation of the sales tax, there was no clear explanation about how things will be taxed or where those taxed items will be reported.

AB 28 passed 57-to-17, with six voters absent when it passed on Sept. 26, 2023. The bill, which did not require a public vote to be passed, fell to the responsibility of the California State Assembly.

The message to unhappy gun owners from both The Range and Valley Rod & Gun was a simple one: vote.

Simpson encouraged everyone to get out and vote, not just this year, but again in two years when Gavin Newsom’s term as California Governor comes to an end.

Caudillo echoed the sentiment.

“I just hope the customers realize that their votes and their word matters,” she said. “Only we can fight against this; the people that this does affect, they need to speak up, they need to do something about it because it’s basically like a ‘sin tax.’ It’s in our constitution that we have the right to bear arms.”

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