PHOENIX — Calling them necessities, a first-term lawmaker wants the same sales tax rate on guns as to the food you buy from the grocery and the prescriptions you get from your pharmacy.
“You’ve got massively rising crime rates across the nation,” said Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix.
“Everybody knows that,” he continued. “It’s pretty well documented.”
And there are statistics from the FBI showing the number of homicides rose nearly 30% last year, the largest one-year increase since the report has been issued in the 1960s.
At the same time, Kaiser said, there has been a call from some quarters to “defund the police,” diverting resources from armed, uniformed officers to other alternatives, though he acknowledged those changes have largely not occurred in Arizona.
But the bottom line, he said, is that people may have more need to protect themselves.
“And cost should not be a barrier to defend your family, your property,” said Kaiser.
The cost, he said, can add up.
Take a Glock G42, recently listed at Arizona gun stores at about $440.
The state sales tax is 5.6%. That boosts the cost by about $25.
But that’s not it.
In Pima County, for example, add an additional half cent for the county’s sales tax.
And if the weapon is purchased within the city limits of Tucson, that brings the combined rate up to 8.7%, adding approximately $38 to the out-the-door price.
The numbers go up with the purchase of more expensive weapons.
Want a Patriot Ordnance Factory 01584? That will set you back $2,900 — plus those state and local taxes.
Will that additional charge be a deciding factor in whether to purchase that gun?
“I think in some cases it might be,” Kaiser said. And he said the problem is even more pronounced in communities where the combined rate goes as high as 11.2% as it does in the Pinal County communities of Superior and Mammoth.
Kaiser said his HB 2166, if approved, will make a difference for some.
“I think it will help drive folks that normally couldn't afford to purchase that to be able to purchase that,” he said.
Kaiser has crafted his measure in a way that he believes actually could pick up some support from some Democrats.
First, the sales tax exemption would apply not just to guns but also to what the bill defines as “firearm safety equipment.”
This includes devices that when installed on a gun prevents it from firing without first being deactivated. It also would cover new electronic interlocks that allow the weapon to be fired only by someone who is authorized to operate it.
There also would be no sales tax on gun safes and other lock boxes designed to allow access only through things like a key, a combination lock or a thumb print.
These have been priorities of gun-safety advocates for years who are looking for ways specifically to prevent children from grabbing an unsecured weapon and killing or injuring themselves or others.
Texas enacted just such a sales tax exemption for safety equipment last year.
And there's another possible incentive.
Democrats for years have been attempting to get rid of what’s known as the “gun show loophole.”
Put simply, federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to run background checks on buyers. But that does not apply to “personal sales,” a category that covers people who may be going to gun shows from town to town and selling multiple weapons.
Kaiser said that one reason people go to gun shows is that sellers there do not collect sales taxes. If sales tax is no longer a factor, he figures many people would just as soon go to an actual retailer.
And that, he means, going through the required background check.
Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, who was paralyzed in 2004 in a random shooting, said she has spoken with Kaiser.
“I found his bill intriguing,” she said. And Longdon said she is grateful for what he is proposing on removing taxes for the purchase of gun safety equipment and safes.
“That’s something I could certainly support,'' she said. “But not the rest of it.”
Longdon also said she has not found any evidence that eliminating the sales tax on weapons has moved the purchase of weapons from gun shows to federally licensed firearms dealers.
Kaiser conceded the point, saying his own research found that similar legislation adopted last year in West Virginia, covering not just firearms but also ammunition, failed to produce a shift toward retail sales.
Longdon said she would be willing to back his legislation if it also would prohibit the sale of weapons at gun shows without background checks. Kaiser, however, said that is a non-starter for him, saying he wants to protect the privacy of gun purchasers.
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