Capitol Alert

Tax guns instead of arming teachers, California lawmaker proposes

Nate Woodward, manager at Sacramento Black Rifle, a Rocklin gun shop, puts a rifle back on the display wall on Aug. 15, 2016.
Nate Woodward, manager at Sacramento Black Rifle, a Rocklin gun shop, puts a rifle back on the display wall on Aug. 15, 2016. rpench@sacbee.com

Following the February school massacre in Parkland, Fla., California legislators responded as they often do after a mass shooting, with proposals to further tighten the state's strict gun control laws.

But the killings – and a national protest movement that they inspired – have also raised questions across the country about how best to keep children safe in school.

Assembly Bill 2497, unveiled last month by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, would create a tax on firearm and ammunition sales to fund grants for high schools that want to hire police to provide campus security. The money would also pay for a counselor at every middle school, whose primary responsibility would be to detect and report potential threats of violence.

"It sickens me to think about all the kids who have lost their lives in the school shootings that are plaguing our country," Cooper, an Elk Grove Democrat, said in a statement when he introduced the measure. "Arming teachers is not good public policy and shouldn't be considered."

Cooper has yet to determine how much the tax would be, so it will be an incomplete proposal going before the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee for its first hearing, 2:30 p.m. in Room 126 of the Capitol. The bill faces an uphill climb in the Legislature, where it will need a two-thirds vote in both houses.

Gun rights groups are already lining up against the measure.

Craig DeLuz of the Firearms Policy Coalition said he supports efforts to improve school safety, but it is unfair to target gun owners to pay for a service that will benefit all students.

"Who should be bearing that burden? It should be all taxpayers, not one specific group of law-abiding taxpayers that are just trying to exercise their Second Amendment rights," DeLuz said.

He added that he's been expecting a firearms and ammunition tax at the Capitol since Democrats regained their supermajority in 2016: "I was honestly surprised that it took them this long to come up with this idea."

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