August 11, 2023
There are few things that Democrats in Congress can do regarding anti-gun legislation that even raise an eyebrow anymore, but the recent revival of legislation that would levy a 1,000% tax on so-called “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines is turning a few heads.
The legislation, introduced by U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Virginia, with 25 Democrat co-sponsors, is not yet available for review, and it is unknown whether there are any changes from last year’s bill. Language in that legislation put the tax on semi-auto rifles that could accept a detachable magazine and had one of several cosmetic features, as well as magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds. It also would include semi-automatic shotguns with fixed magazines that can hold more than five rounds, which, with the availability of 1.75-inch shells, would take in most sporting shotguns used for hunting and other purposes.
For context, if the measure were passed, an AR-style sporting rifle that now costs $800 would carry a tax bill of $8,000. The resulting cost of $8,800 to own one of the rifles would likely be prohibitive for most Americans.
The tax on normal-capacity magazines that come standard with many semi-automatics would be equally punitive. With the new tax, a common $15 30-round PMag would cost the consumer $165 after taxes.
“I have voted in the past for common-sense gun safety reforms only to see them run aground on Senate Republicans’ filibuster,” Beyer said in announcing the measure last summer. “My bill presents a pathway to bypass that obstruction and enact lifesaving measures. It is essential that Congress take meaningful action to prevent gun violence, and the bill I am putting forward can cut through the gridlock and get it done.”
Breyer’s measure is obviously designed to put guns and magazines that he and other gun-banners find objectionable out of the financial range of American citizens. Fortunately, it’s highly unlikely such a tax could pass constitutional muster if looked at through the new Supreme Court standards set down in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
Of course, law enforcement would be exempted from the 1,000% tax, ensuring that the government would be better armed than average Americans. Beyer introduced the same proposal last year, but it never gained traction, despite Democrats having control of the House.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.