Hello, Black Market: CA Assembly Passes HUGE New Tax on Guns & Ammo

P. Gardner Goldsmith | September 24, 2023
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On September 13, the California Assembly presented for Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature its just-passed, 11-percent excise tax on the sale of most ammunition and firearms in the state.

Which likely inspired black market participants to cheer their good fortune.

The bill is called AB 28, and The Center Square’s Kenneth Schrupp explains that this 11-percent tax comes in addition to the current 7.25-percent sales tax the state extracts from its victims.

“The California legislature passed a new excise tax specifically on firearms, firearm precursor parts and ammunition. The 11% levy, paid in addition to sales taxes, would take effect on July 1, 2024. The state has a base statewide sales tax of 7.25% with most cities and counties imposing additional sales taxes, meaning buyers of guns, parts and ammunition would pay taxes of at least 18.25% on their purchases in California. Critics of the measure say it exceeds legislative authority by taxing a constitutional right.”

Well, it certainly steps into a moral abyss, one which a 1919 federal excise tax of 10 percent (supposedly to keep the unconstitutional “National Parks” clean of lead and casings) opened, the FDR-era “Firearms Act” of 1934 widened when it imposed an intentionally targeted and injurious $200 (over $4,000 in today’s inflated dollars) tax on the sale of automatic “machine guns” – and which has widened ever since, with generation after generation of politicians, bureaucrats, and autocrats assuming they can blithely attack their neighbor’s right to freedom of exchange, contract, and self-defense.

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And since the 2022 Supreme Court “New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v Bruen” decision set a high threshold that governments will have to meet in order to infringe on the supposedly “protected” right to keep and bear arms, the collectivist plotters in California appear desperate to find any way they can make to make it harder for peaceful people to acquire their own means of defense.

Notes Schrupp:

“AB 28, introduced by Assemblymembers Jesse Gabriel, D – Woodland Hills, and Kevin McCarthy, D – Sacramento, would direct tax revenues from the measure to a new Gun Violence Prevention and School Safety Fund. They claim the bill is analogous to a federal excise tax (on) firearms and ammunition since 1919 of 10-11% that has been used to fund conservation efforts to remediate ecological effects of hunting, citing the National Rifle Association’s support for these excise tax-funded conservation efforts.”

Which isn’t a check in the “plus” column for the NRA.

Schrupp also notes the vast amount of money the leviathan is expected to grab (with its government guns pointing at buyers and sellers, all the while):

“The Gun Violence Prevention and School Safety Fund, estimated to take in $160 million per year, will prioritize ‘reducing and preventing gun violence’ in ‘communities that are disproportionately impacted by shootings and gun homicides.’” 

And, of course, it won’t do anything except force people to pay the political pirates and funnel that cash into political channels, removing it from the areas where real people would have spent it in the first place.

In fact, with the new tax, these government agents not only will make it harder for people to get affordable guns and ammo, they will make it more cost-prohibitive to buy rounds for training.

And as these kinds of tax increases typically do, they will increase the incentive to engage in black market trade.

Anyone with a passing familiarity of economics knows that when arbitrary state power tries to impose higher transaction costs on peaceful market participants, many of those participants will reach a point at which engaging in the transactions in a “visible” (i.e. “lawful”) way is less productive than engaging in the underground market. It’s simply a variation on cost-benefit analysis, and it’s been seen already in places like Canada, where, in the 1990s, the government imposed punitive taxes on the sale of cigarettes, and – SHOCK! – opened the door to black marketeers intent on avoiding the taxes.

When I worked at a television production studio in Vancouver in 1996, I used to hear reports of the “RCMP busting criminal black market cigarette rings” and I simultaneously would cringe and laugh. Yet the problem persists in Canada because the politicians want the tax money, they want to virtue-signal that they “care,” and they have a collectivist, government-run, tax-paid medical system that frowns upon people smoking.

After all, they often say, “We ALL pay” for your terrible smoking habit.

The result of Canadian cigarette taxes? Dirk Meissner writes for Global News:

“The governments of British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador lost up to $2.47 billion in tax revenues over four years due to the growth in illegal tobacco sales, says a convenience industry report.

The Convenience Industry Council of Canada report released Wednesday examined the downward trend in legal tobacco sales in the three provinces since 2019, compared with the rising growth in the underground contraband tobacco market.

‘These cigarettes are illegally sold, tax and duty free, without any Health Canada regulations or inspections and retail for a fraction of legal tobacco prices,’ said the 72-page report.”

Translating that to guns and ammo, one can ask which portions of the California population will be most likely to abide by the statutes, those who are “law-abiding” folks, or those who already are criminally-minded?

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The question contains its answer, of course.

So, not only will the legally-minded have a harder time maintaining their right to keep and bear arms, those who try to get their guns or ammo on the black market could actually be feeding violent criminals with their money, and the people intent on violence already have no incentive to abide by the law.

Genius. And now, the CA bill awaits Gavin Newsom’s signature. 

When politicians tax, they engage in legalized theft and extortion. When they mix that sin with the ego to tell others how to live, to use the tax system to “shape behavior,” they compound the theft with the arrogant belief that they know better than their neighbor how their neighbor should peacefully live. Isn’t that like the Mafia?

Not quite. At least the mob didn’t operate under the pretense of lawfulness, civility, and legitimate authority over its victims.