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A key House Democrat is floating a 1,000% tax on AR-15s and similar rifles as part of his party’s latest bid to push gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings.
Rep. Donald Beyer of Virginia, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, told Business Insider that increasing the cost of the rifles ten-fold could be a deterrent to mass shootings. The tax could raise the price of the rifles to anywhere from $5,000 to as much as $20,000.
“What it’s intended to do is provide another creative pathway to actually make some sensible gun control happen,” Beyer said. “We think that a 1,000% fee on assault weapons is just the kind of restrictive measure that creates enough fiscal impact to qualify for reconciliation.”
A final draft of Beyer’s bill is not yet complete, and it is still unclear when the tax would take effect and what the added revenue would fund, although one possibility is a restitution program for family members of victims killed in shootings. Beyer said that law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military wouldn’t be subject to the tax. The lawmaker added that he believes his bill can clear the House, where Democrats hold a clear majority, and bypass the filibuster in the Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris could cast the deciding vote.
Congress must act to prevent mass shootings.
I’m writing a bill to restrict the flow of weapons of war into American communities – including AR-15’s and high capacity magazines – that could bypass the filibuster and pass with just 50 votes in the Senate:https://t.co/dXFRFftYxu
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) June 5, 2022
Beyer’s plan is to pass the bill through reconciliation, which would allow it to bypass the 60-vote threshold for breaking the filibuster. Because it is a tax proposal, it could meet the requirement for reconciliation, experts said.
An estimated 20 million AR-15-style rifles are in circulation in the U.S., and about 20% of all new firearms purchases meet the description. President Biden has called for a ban on what the Left often describes as “assault weapons,” although the term is not a technical firearm definition. A bill proposed by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) defines “assault weapons” as “military-style” rifles, including those with “a magazine that is not a fixed ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics including a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock.”
Democrats have also proposed raising the age to buy an AR-15-style rifle from 18 to 21. Recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, were carried out by 18-year-old men with AR-15-style rifles, although a mass shooting in Philadelphia Saturday night was carried out by multiple suspects with handguns.
“We need to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” Biden said last week. “And if we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21, strengthen the background checks.”
Beyer also called for imposing new taxes on high-capacity magazines that can carry more than ten rounds of ammunition.
The definition of an assault weapon in the Beyer bill closely mirrors a measure that Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island is pushing. That bill would ban weapons with at least one military characteristic like a pistol grip or a forward grip.
Republicans have historically resisted new gun control measures, claiming that criminals will not abide by them, and in nearly every mass shooting, existing laws were broken or the suspect should have been flagged. But in the wake of recent shootings, some members of the GOP have signaled a willingness to consider new laws.