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New California Law Funds Gun Safety Initiatives

The first-of-its-kind gun industry tax will fund school safety and violence intervention programs

On Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed several gun bills into law, including Assembly Bill 28 — also known as the Gun Violence Prevention and School Safety Act — which will fund core gun safety initiatives with an 11-percent excise tax on the gross income of licensed gun dealers, manufacturers, and ammunition vendors when they sell firearms and ammunition in the state.

The tax will generate an estimated $160 million annually as a permanent funding source for community violence intervention programs, mental and behavioral health services and safety measures for schools, programs supporting victims of gun violence, the state’s firearm relinquishment program, and firearm education and research.

Notably, ​​sales to law enforcement are exempt from the tax, as are small businesses who sell less than $5,000 worth of firearms, firearm precursor parts, and ammunition in a quarter.

The law goes into effect on July 1, 2024.

Since 1919, firearms and ammunition makers and importers have had to pay a federal excise tax — 10 percent on handguns, 11 percent on long guns and ammunition — that goes toward wildlife conservation and hunter education efforts. These Pittman-Robertson funds, as they are known, are widely celebrated in the gun world.

But California’s new law, the first of its kind on the state level, has drawn ire from the gun lobby. Before the law was enacted, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade association, called AB 28 “One of the most egregious pieces of legislation to see significant movement in Sacramento.” The National Rifle Association claimed that “[a]s with the rest of the not-so-Golden State’s ever-increasing maze of gun laws, the legislation is designed to discourage the exercise of the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.” The NRA later stated that “Newsom’s consistent attacks on the constitutional rights of the citizens while ignoring criminals are converting California into a beacon for violence and lawlessness.”

Governor Newsom signed AB 28 into law alongside several other measures, including a law to prohibit people from carrying guns in public places, such as parks, playgrounds, and public transit, and another requiring the microstamping of handgun cartridges to help law enforcement trace crime guns back to criminals.