California legislators will see a bill during its 2019 legislative session to tax guns — handguns and semi-automatic rifles, specifically — and use that money for community grants.
The bill is sponsored by Marc Levine, a state Assemblyman from the 10th District that encompasses the north San Francisco Bay Area. The 44-year-old Democrat did not specify the amount of requested tax in his bill.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Levine’s chief of staff, Will Shuck, said possible models for the amount are Chicago or Seattle. Both cities have a $25 tax on firearms.
Levine wants the additional tax revenue to be distributed as part of expanded violence prevention programs. The California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program gave out more than $8 million in 2017 to organizations in Los Angeles, Oakland, Richmond, Stockton and Oxnard, among others.
“California needs to bolster violence prevention initiatives so that they are commensurate with our state’s tough gun laws and as effective as violence prevention programs of other states,” he said in a statement. Democrats have a Supermajority in the Assembly and have stated that gun control is on their agenda for the 2019 session.
Levine said the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation showed an increase of 18 percent in gun homicides in California from 2014-16. This rise came despite an increase in gun control laws in California, some of the strictest in the nation.
The Los Angeles Times editorial said Levine would exempt “long guns used for hunting” from his proposed tax. The newspaper said in the last five years an average of 503,000 handguns and 556,000 long guns have been sold in the state. Levine’s proposed tax would have generated $12.6 million a year on handguns and $26.5 million a year if all guns were included.
The Times editorial board concluded by saying, “The Legislature should give this proposal serious consideration, and take care that whatever final form it takes will survive the inevitable legal challenge from the gun lobby.”
California’s Assembly opens its 2019 session Jan. 7.