Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, has introduced a bill that would establish a fund to support gun violence prevention programs, and the funding would come from a 15% sales tax on firearm and ammunition sales.
House Bill 1687 would create the Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund, to which localities, school boards, research organizations and community-based organizations would apply for grants. The bill is just one of dozens of gun control measures the General Assembly is considering this legislative session.
The 15% sales tax would more than double the current tax on guns and ammunition. Rasoul described it as “modest.” It would be applied to any firearm or ammunition sale by a dealer, seller at a gun show or any other person who sells the items within Virginia.
Rasoul compared the tax levied on guns and ammunition to existing taxes on items like cigarettes. Such taxes aim to disincentivize and defray the cost of harmful behavior. Taxpayers are on the hook for gun violence when they have to cover medical and health care costs.
“It’s kind of one of those conversations where we have about, should we increase taxes on nicotine?” Rasoul said.
However, most gun owners are not committing crimes with their guns. And most guns in civilian hands are not being used in crimes. So is such a tax in this case misplacing the financial responsibility for who is committing gun violence?
“I think chipping in a few dollars here and there to support these programs could really help with some of these localities,” Rasoul said.
Last year, California’s legislature considered increasing its sales tax on firearms and bullets to support a violence and intervention fund. In the state of Washington, some localities have levied high taxes on gun sales.
Gun rights groups argue gun and ammo taxes could be used to limit gun ownership, and they are especially harmful to lower-income people who want to purchase a firearm.
“Our fundamental right to defend ourselves and our families, or to go hunting, should not be subject to further government taxes and fees just to satisfy the political whims of Mike Bloomberg and Gov. [Ralph] Northam,” NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said in a statement.