published Monday, September 9th, 2013

Gun, ammunition taxes would jump under federal bill

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A 50 percent federal tax on ammunition and a 20 percent federal tax on guns — up from 11 percent on both now — has been proposed by two Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Revenue from the steep new taxes in "The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act of 2013," introduced by U.S. Reps. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., and Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., would be earmarked to pay for such things as school resource officers and programs to reduce violence.

The bill likely won't make it out of the Republican-controlled U.S. House -- but it has caught the attention of local firearms enthusiasts.

"We've heard of it, and a lot of people have been talking about it," said Vann Earhart, store manager of North Georgia Reloading and Accessories in Fort Oglethorpe.

Gun store owners and employees have mixed opinions about how word of the proposed tax hike might affect supplies of ammunition and guns -- which flew off shelves as gun owners anticipated new restrictions from President Barack Obama in the wake of the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.

"Hopefully, that's not going to happen," Earhart said. "It's expensive enough now. If they add 50 percent of tax to [ammo], it's going to be impossible for a working man to buy it."

Some area stores sold out of guns in the wake of Sandy Hook. Others ran out of different types of ammunition, and rationed what they had by limiting the amount a customer could buy.

Carl Poston, owner of Sportsman's Supply and Services on Hixson Pike, said news of higher taxes on guns, accessories and ammunition -- or restrictions on their sale -- spurs demand.

"It definitely has an effect," he said.

For example, Poston cited the federal assault weapons ban that went into effect for 10 years starting in 1994 and limited the capacity of the magazine, or receptacle that holds ammunition, to 10 cartridges.

"All that caused was an unbelievable amount of [high-capacity] magazines to be sold," he said, before that ban took effect.

Chattanooga District 9 City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem was sympathetic to the intent of the proposed legislation -- but not the means of funding it.

"It's the first I've heard of it," Hakeem said. "I think their intention in the outcome they would like is very beneficial. [But] citizens are sort of fed up right now with government saying, 'We're going to tax you in another way.'"

The ammunition shortage sparked by Sandy Hook has abated, most area gun store owners say.

"We have noticed that [ammunition] is easier to come across, easier to stock on shelves," said Amiee Martin, co-owner of Shooter's Depot on Shallowford Road.

She and Poston said certain calibers are still hard to find, including .22, .380 and .25 automatic.

North Georgia Reloading and Accessories caters to customers who make their own ammunition, and Earhart pointed to a shelf near the door that holds boxes of primer, the caps that ignite a cartridge's powder.

"It's worse now than it was three months ago," he said. "There needs to be 200,000 primers over there, instead of 6,000."

"Maybe it'll get better," Earhart said. "I hope so. I don't know what it's going to take to make it better."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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