Capitol Alert

New California tax on semi-automatic guns proposed by lawmaker

A California lawmaker will push for a new tax on sales of semi-automatic firearms, with the proceeds going to support community violence prevention programs.

“The gun tax will support the kind of interventions that make gun violence less likely in the first place which is exactly what we need to do,” Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae, said in a statement Wednesday.

The new tax revenue would be routed through the existing California Violence Intervention and Prevention Program, overseen by the Board of State and Community Corrections, which send grants to cities and community-based organizations.

Will Shuck, Levine’s chief of staff, said that the amount of the excise tax is to be determined, but that the state could look to Chicago or Seattle, which impose a $25 tax on most firearm sales, as a model.

“And that amount per firearm sale will certainly be considered in the discussion with stakeholders to ultimately determine the appropriate tax for California,” Shuck said.

While the anticipated revenue is yet to be calculated, Shuck said it should be in the millions of dollars.

Last year, more than $8 million in grants were distributed to the cities of Los Angeles, Oakland, Richmond, San Bernardino, Stockton, Compton, Vallejo, Pasadena, Salinas, Oxnard and Santa Rosa, as well as more than a dozen community-based organizations.

Levine’s proposal comes as Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom has vowed to “raise the bar” on gun control in California when he takes office.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 51,600 gun violence incidents in the United States in 2018, including 323 mass shootings. That includes more than 500 shootings in California. That number does not include suicide by firearm.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.