61 House Republicans propose new tax cut to make buying guns cheaper

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The $200 tax on some firearms transfers has not been raised since 1934. They want to eliminate it entirely.

A group of 61 House Republicans proposed a new tax cut this week, this time for gun purchasers.

On Tuesday, Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson introduced the Repealing Illegal Freedom and Liberty Excises (RIFLE) Act to repeal the $200 tax on the transfer and purchase of a small number of federally regulated guns.

"The federal government should not be placing financial barriers on the inalienable rights of Americans. This unconstitutional tax on certain firearm purchases is a direct violation of the Second Amendment and must be repealed," she said in a press release on Wednesday.

"As the Biden Administration and Democrats push proposals that unfairly target law-abiding gun owners, I will continue to stand up for Iowans' right to keep and bear arms," she added.

Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, one of 60 original co-sponsors, agreed, writing, "Law-abiding citizens should not have to fear the federal government regulating their firearms out of existence. This tax is unconstitutional and infringes on our Second Amendment rights."

The Second Amendment states that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

It makes no prohibition of taxation of firearms, which has been done for decades. Similarly, while the Constitution protects the right to free speech and press, that has never meant book sales must be tax-exempt.

The $200 tax applies only to "firearms and equipment (such as machine guns, short-barreled firearms, and silencers) regulated under the National Firearms Act," according to the Congressional Research Service. It was enacted in 1934.

While its original purpose was to slow the sale of those deadly arms, it has not been increased a bit since that time. The Center for American Progress estimated in 2020 that, if it had kept pace with inflation, that tax would now be $3,900 per sale.

One of the report's authors told the American Independent Foundation on Thursday that Hinson's proposal is a bad idea.

"This bill is an effort to undermine a nearly 90-year-old law that has successfully protected U.S. communities from the significant harm caused by fully automatic machineguns," said Chelsea Parsons, vice president for gun violence prevention policy at the Center.

"At a time when gun violence is devastating communities across the country, our elected leaders should be focused on developing solutions to that problem, not carrying the water for the gun industry," she added.

In Fiscal Year 2016, the National Firearms Act taxes brought in about $68.6 million into the U.S. Treasury.

A spokesperson for Hinson did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether and how she would offset those funds without making the federal budget deficit even larger.

Contrary to Newhouse's assertion, the bill has hardly regulated firearms out of existence.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry's trade association, close to 5.5 million guns were sold in the first quarter of 2021 in the U.S. alone — the most on record.

"I don't think we are in an environment where gun sales are going to fall anytime soon," Wellesley College economist Phillip Levine told CBS News on April 21.

Gun violence has also continued to be widespread. According to Gun Violence Archive, more than 15,000 gun deaths have already occurred in the U.S. this year alone. There have also been at least 200 mass shootings in the first 132 days of 2021.

In March, every one of the 61 GOP lawmakers pushing for this tax cut for guns voted against giving Americans an average 2021 tax cut of $3,040 — a key provision of President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.