Lawmaker introduces bill to tax assault weapons 1,000%


Rep. Don Beyer, D-Virginia, introduced a bill to impose a 1,000% excise tax on manufacturers, importers or producers of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the wake of a string of mass shootings across the country.

The Assault Weapons Excise Act, introduced Tuesday in the House, faces steep odds of passing in Congress. Last week, the House passed a gun control measure that would raise the minimum age for buying most assault weapons from 18 to 21 and prohibit high-capacity ammunition magazines after lawmakers heard testimony from victims of the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York. Beyer’s bill could pass in the Senate with a simple 50-vote majority as a revenue measure via reconciliation, his office noted.

Neither bill is likely to pass in the Senate, but a group of senators has been negotiating a limited set of gun safety measures and reached agreement over the weekend on a broad framework that includes funds to allow states to pass so-called “red flag” laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, expand support for community behavioral health centers, close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” for unmarried people who are convicted of committing violence against a partner, and provide funding for school security.

U.S. Capitol

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Beyer’s Assault Weapons Excise Act would impose a 1,000% excise tax on the manufacture, production or importation of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The bill includes an exemption for federal, state and local government entities, so the armed services and law enforcement would be unaffected. 

As a revenue measure, the bill is designed to be included in budget reconciliation legislation and withstand challenges under the Byrd Rule to provide a pathway to pass a new restriction on assault weapons with a simple majority in the Senate. Beyer is a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

“Congress must take action to stem the flood of weapons of war into American communities, which have taken a terrible toll in Uvalde, Buffalo, Tulsa, and too many other places,” Beyer said in a statement Tuesday. “Again and again assault weapons designed for use on the battlefield have been used in mass shootings at schools, grocery stores, hospitals, churches, synagogues, malls, theaters, bars and so on. As the response in Uvalde shows, even law enforcement feel outgunned. I have voted in the past for common-sense gun safety reforms only to see them run aground on Senate Republicans’ filibuster; my bill presents a pathway to bypass that obstruction and enact lifesaving measures. If the Senate is able to agree on the legislative package currently under discussion, which would be a very positive development, my bill would give the Senate an option for further action to address the epidemic of gun violence. 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.”

The text of the Assault Weapons Excise Act defines firearms and ammunition magazines subject to its 1,000 percent excise tax using updated language and terms largely drawn from Assault Weapons Ban of 2021, introduced last year by Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, which Beyer cosponsors. The gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas used an AR-15 model rifle which reportedly retails for $1,870. If the Assault Weapons Excise Act were signed into law, Beyers’ office noted, the cost of the same firearm would be $18,700.

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