Bill Introduced to Raise Gun Excise Tax By: William Lawson


Congressmen Bill Pascrell and Danny Davis have introduced a bill to raise the gun and ammunition excise tax across the board. The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act would use that extra money “to create guaranteed annual funding for gun violence prevention.” The bill’s sponsors claim the bill “is an important step in ensuring federal investment every year to make our communities safer.” This bill is a new version of a 2013 bill with the same name.

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Federal firearms excise tax
The federal firearms excise tax affects every gun sold in the US. (Shutterstock)

A Disingenuous View of “Gun Violence”

Congressman Bill Pascrell

Pascrell (D-NJ) says that “Gun violence continues to threaten communities from coast to coast and Congress has a responsibility to stem the crisis. After decades of inaction, raising the tax on firearms would provide an offset to the massive cost to society of gun violence—exactly as taxes on alcohol and tobacco have successfully done.”

New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell
New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell (Wikipedia)

Pascrell is referring to the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety’s study claiming that “gun violence” costs the nation $557 billion every year. This disingenuous figure includes police investigations, medical treatment, long-term physical and mental health care, lost earnings for injured or deceased victims, criminal justice costs, and cost estimates of victims and their families’ pain and suffering.

The study is really a subjective exercise in attributing as much damage as possible to gun-related incidents, including suicides, which account for well over half of firearms deaths. Note also that the long-term costs are estimates for which there can be no real accounting. We can be sure, however, that those estimates were maximized by Everytown. The study is ideologically driven, but that doesn’t stop politicians like Pascrell from citing it.

Michael Bloomberg
Everytown for Gun Safety is bankrolled by arch gun controller Michael Bloomberg. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Pascrell also equates firearms and ammunition to alcohol and tobacco. Perhaps that’s natural, considering the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ name. But it also shows a lack of understanding, deliberate or not, of how those items relate to one another.

Alcohol and tobacco are heavily regulated, as are firearms. The difference is that neither alcohol nor tobacco use are Constitutionally protected and are therefore legitimate targets for a “sin tax.” Pascrell and Davis undoubtedly see civilian firearm use as undesirable, so they lump it in with alcohol and tobacco. Pascrell’s says as much. But taxing a Constitutional right is sketchy at best. The excise tax may eventually be challenged under the Bruen Decision.

Congressman Danny Davis

Davis (D-IL) added that “Not one penny of current federal excise taxes on guns and ammunition goes to gun violence prevention. He is correct, but what Davis doesn’t tell you is that, under the 1937 Pittman Robertson Act, that money goes to a trust fund for environmental conservation, whether it be forestry or wildlife related. The US Fish and Wildlife Commission administers the trust fund on behalf of the states.

Illinois Congressman Danny Davis
Illinois Congressman Danny Davis (Wikipedia)

Davis would have you believe that the firearms industry and gun owners do nothing good for the country. He and Pascrell also don’t like that the Pittman Robertson Act prevents them from using that money for their own ends.

Davis says that the bill also “closes a major loophole in tax law that allows many assault-type weapons to evade taxes altogether.” He’s referring to parts kits and receivers here. The federal firearms excise tax only applies to finished firearms, so Davis is technically correct in that regard. But to say they “evade taxes altogether” is, once again, disingenuous. Like every other retail product, those items generate sales tax from purchasers and business tax from manufacturers. Keep in mind that the excise tax does not restrict those items’ availability. It just makes them more expensive, which is the real point. More on that later.

Excise Tax Too Low?

As you might expect, both Congressmen complain that firearms and ammunition taxes aren’t high enough. “The federal gun tax has remained the same for over one hundred years,” laments Davis, “and the ammunition tax is the same as it was during World War II.”

The bill’s press release further complains that “Incredibly, the excise taxes on guns have not changed since Woodrow Wilson was President over 100 years ago and on ammunition since Franklin Roosevelt occupied the White House.” This is true. Congress enacted the firearms excise tax in 1919. It assesses a 10 percent tax on all manufactured or imported firearms. Manufacturers then pass the tax on to the consumer as part of the retail price.

Not Exactly

But, again, the Congressmen are “massaging” the facts. The 10 percent tax rate has not changed. But the dollar amount has increased with inflation. So, the government is raking in more money every year as gun prices and sales figures rise. To say the excise taxes “have not changed” is blatantly dishonest.

In addition, the excise tax on guns and ammunition was raised to 11 percent in 1941 to help fund America’s rearmament as World War II threatened to engulf the United States. The firearms tax returned to 10 percent in 1955, while the ammunition tax remains at 11 percent. Like guns, the ammunition tax generates more money as prices and demand rise. So, the generated revenue is hardly “the same as it was during World War II.”

ammunition excise tax
The excise tax also affects ammunition. (Shutterstock)

To put that in perspective, the 1920 Census reported the US population at roughly 106 million people. That’s one year after the firearms excise tax took effect. The 1940 Census, one year before the ammunition excise tax increased to 11 percent, reported a population of about 132 million. The 2020 Census reported the population at over 331 million people. Firearms and ammunition sales have hit record numbers over the last few years. Pretending that the tax has not increased since 1919 or 1941 is a bald-faced lie. The excise tax is raking in money hand over fist.

Proposed Tax Increases

The bill proposes increasing the federal firearms and ammunition excise tax “by just half a percent.” “Just half a percent.” That’s another part that tries to sound reasonable, like the bill’s supposed purpose of combating “gun violence.” Reasonable sounding language just might be enough to garner Republican support, especially since we know that politicians routinely vote for legislation they never study or even bother to read. And let’s be honest, it’s the rare politician that won’t vote for tax increases, especially if they fly under the radar by targeting specific markets.

ATF tax stamp excise tax
The new bill would significantly increase the NFA tax stamp rate. The tax would immediately increase by 2,007 percent and keep rising. They want to make it unaffordable. (

Not Just the Excise Tax

But they aren’t just singling out the excise tax. Oh no. They want to increase the transfer tax too. You know that $200.00 tax stamp you pay for NFA items like short-barreled rifles and suppressors? They don’t like that it’s been the same since 1934. Pascrell and Davis want to index that to inflation. That means the $200.00 tax stamp would increase to $4,215.33 right now. Expect that to keep rising.

But the tax stamp’s purpose in 1934 was to make items deemed undesirable by Congress too expensive to buy. Do not doubt that Pascrell and Davis have the same goal. The fact that Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) is co-sponsoring this bill is evidence of just that. Beyer, you may recall, is currently pushing a 1000 percent tax on “assault weapons,” hoping to make them too expensive. This bill would accomplish something similar.

Virginia Congressman Don Beyer
Virginia Congressman Don Beyer (Business Insider)

The bill also aims to tie the firearms manufacturers’ occupational tax to inflation. This would significantly increase manufacturers’ costs. The $1,000.00 per year tax would explode to $21,076.65 in 2022 dollars. Manufacturers would certainly pass that cost to consumers. All guns and ammunition would become even more expensive. That, I believe, is the bill’s primary goal.

Tying these taxes to inflation illustrates that Pascrell and Davis well understand that the excise tax is not “the same” as it was in 1919 or 1941.

Proposed excise tax increases
Proposed tax increases under the new bill. (

How Would Congress Spend the Extra Tax Money?

The bill’s press release says the legislation would direct the new revenue into a “Gun Violence Prevention Trust Fund.” The estimated $20-$38 million annual take would be evenly divided among four programs “designed to make communities safer and reduce violence:”

  • The “Community Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative” would support “comprehensive, evidence-based violence intervention and prevention programs with adults and youth.” Not vague at all.
  • Gun Violence Research to be conducted by the Center for Disease Control National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the National Institutes of Health. Remember, this is the same institution that found Americans defend themselves 2.5 million times per year in a previous study. The Obama Administration buried the results because they didn’t fit the narrative.
  • Hate Crimes Data Collection, Prevention, and Enforcement. You know, because gun owners totally hate everyone. According to certain bad actors, anyway. More vague rhetoric.
  • Forensic Examiner Training to Improve Gun Crime Clearance Rates. This, of course, does nothing to promote public safety. As always, it’s an after-the-fact measure that does not address the fact that criminals overwhelmingly use stolen or otherwise illegal guns.

The Bottom Line

Basically, Pascrell and Davis want gun owners and manufacturers to fund their gun control agenda. Gun ban efforts have gotten them nowhere. Restrictions like magazine bans are beginning to fall under Bruen. Ridiculous carry laws too.

But Congress controls revenue and revenue is generated by taxes and fees. Gun controllers are coming around to the idea that pricing us out of the market might be their best strategy. If guns are too expensive, far fewer people will buy them. Lower sales and higher taxes harm manufacturers and maybe even force them out of business.

Former Attorney General Homer Cummings
Former Attorney General Homer Cummings testified that the NFA’s purpose was to make certain firearms and accessories too expensive by taxing them. (Fuddbusters YouTube Channel)

This has nothing to do with public safety. A serious effort in that direction would address far more than guns. But that’s all the gun controllers have. It’s all they’ve ever had. No, this is a front to hit the gun industry in the wallet and really make it hurt. The public safety angle is a sham.

Unconstitutional? Maybe

The hardships placed on individuals exercising an enumerated right seems blatantly unconstitutional. But remember that many believed the same thing about the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. The government got around the Constitutionality question by framing the mandate as a tax, which five Supreme Court justices allowed.

Bill of Rights excise tax
The right to keep and bear arms being in the Bill of Rights might make the tax unconstitutional. Might. (Tucson Sentinel)

On the other hand, poll taxes were clearly aimed at preventing poor African Americans from voting. They were deemed unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The fact that the Bill of Rights clearly protects the right to keep and bear arms may win the day. But it won’t stop the gun controllers from trying. They know that legal challenges usually take years, and they gamble on changing the Supreme Court’s makeup before that time.

This bill is a cobra in the grass. I encourage you to contact your Representative and make it clear you know what it’s really about. Let’s not have to fight it out in the courts.

Supporters of the Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act include the following gun control organizations:

Brady: Untied Against Gun Violence; Everytown for Gun Safety; the Major Cities Chiefs Association; the Newtown Action Alliance; and the Violence Policy Center.

Pascrell and Davis sponsored the bill, and it has 20 co-sponsors. The bill is not yet assigned to committee as of this writing.