Guns and Gear

Massachusetts Tries Gun Control The Old-Fashioned Way: Higher Taxes

Rick Wilking

Jordan Fox Reporting Intern
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A gun bill in Massachusetts is looking to expand gun restrictions in the state through additional taxes on lawful gun owners.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Cynthia Creem, is one of many she said she has filed every state senate session in order to “to make it harder and harder” to obtain a gun, she told Wicked Local Newsbank.

Not only would the bill impose a 4.75 percent surcharge “on sales at retail of all ammunition, rifles, shotguns, firearms or parts thereof” on top of the licensing fees, the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax and the 11 percent federal excise tax; it would also require virtually all firearm sales to take place through a licensed dealer, with an additional charge for private gun sales, require gun owners to use fingerprint scanners to deactivate the weapon when the technology becomes available and bans .50 caliber weapons outright with a hefty fine and possible jail time if someone is found in violation of the law.

The money from the tax would go to the Firearms Violence Prevention Trust Fund, established under the bill, which would “utilize such funds to establish an annual municipal grant program to support municipal violence prevention programs.”

Gun activists in the state are outraged by the sweeping legislation, especially since research shows that crime rates either are not affected or increase over time with more gun restrictions, according to the Crime Research Prevention Center.

“What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?” Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, told Wicked Local Newsbank. “Is it political, perceived or real? It seems it’s always been political.”

Frustration with the legislation also includes the belief that lawful gun owners seem to be punished for the transgressions of criminals, people who would find an illegal way to obtain a gun no matter what the law says.

“This is yet another attempt to vilify lawful gun owners and retailers,” Jake McGuigan, director of government relations for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said to the Salem News. “It would force them to pay for crimes committed by violent felons.”

However, Creem told the Salem News that she does not see the tax as any different from “paying a toll on the bridge for using the roads.”

Massachusetts is not the only state to explore imposing taxes and additional fees on firearm sales. Seattle charges taxes on firearms and ammunition. Illinois is looking to impose a 5 percent tax on gun clubs, shooting ranges, hunt clubs, training classes and match fees, as well as charge the ranges, classes and clubs an annual fee to continue to operate.

If the legislation passes in Massachusetts, gun activists view it as penalizing “law-abiding gun owners” for crimes and violence that has nothing to do with them, the Salem News reported. Yet Creem said she thinks the bill isn’t about restricting gun rights, but protecting against gun violence.

“I do think people really do care about gun control, or at least having sensible gun use,” Creem said to Wicked Local Newsbank. “I look at this as a way to still enjoy the lawful use of firearms.”