✅ Tax guns and ammo

A series of firearms and ammunition owned by firearms instructor Ziyad "Zip" Showket. March 15, 2023. Photo by Mark Leong for CalMatters
Firearms and ammunition owned and displayed by firearms instructor Ziyad “Zip” Showket on March 15, 2023. Photo by Mark Leong for CalMatters

By Alexei Koseff


AB 28 by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, a Woodland Hills Democrat, would impose an 11% excise tax on retailers and manufacturers for sales of guns or ammunition. Modeled on a similar federal levy for wildlife conservation, the tax could bring in an estimated $160 million annually for violence intervention programs, school safety improvements and law enforcement efforts to confiscate guns from people who are prohibited from owning them.


Facing a higher two-thirds threshold for approval, the measure received widespread backing from Democratic lawmakers who argue that it would provide an essential, steady stream of funding to further California’s gun safety efforts. Gun control advocates, physicians and nurses groups, local elected officials and even some police departments also endorsed it.


Gun rights groups contend the tax will unfairly burden lawful owners of firearms, particularly sports shooters and hunters who frequently buy ammunition, because businesses will simply pass the cost on to customers. They have suggested they will sue to stop it. Their complaint was echoed by Republicans and some Democrats who spoke against the measure in the Legislature.


Lawmakers unsuccessfully pursued sales or excise taxes on guns and ammunition half a dozen times over the past decade, some of which never even got a hearing. Gabriel credited a changing political climate for finally pushing the policy through this session — including parents’ anxiety over regular active shooter drills at schools and widespread anger over last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that tossed long-standing restrictions on carrying concealed weapons.

“The public is demanding this of us,” Gabriel told CalMatters. “They are demanding that we have more solutions, that we protect their kids, to protect their communities.”

Newsom, a vocal proponent of gun safety measures who has repeatedly discouraged legislators from pursuing new taxes in recent years, now must choose between two key governing principles.


Newsom signed the bill Sept. 26 in an event with Bonta, Gabriel and gun safety advocates. The governor, who has been skeptical of tax increases, said this bill is different and will fund school safety, mental health and other violence prevention programs. “This is not a general income tax… .From my perspective, it’s more of a sin tax.”