Eschewing bipartisan calls for a softer, gentler gun control scheme that doesn't include bans, Democrats in Congress on Monday introduced a plan to prohibitively tax ownership of popular guns and magazines.

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, allied with 36 co-sponsors, introduced the "Assault Weapons Excise Act " this week that has a simple goal of adding an extra 1000-percent excise tax on the manufacture, production, or importation of most semi-auto firearms and magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds – or more than five rounds in some cases. 

Such a move would bump the base price of an entry-model AR, such as a Diamondback DB15Ruger AR556, or S&W M&P15, from about $650 to $7,150 – a figure that would still be subject to state and local taxes. More top-shelf models would have a price that approaches $20,000.

The definition of what would qualify as an "assault weapon" under the act would be a centerfire semi-auto rifle, shotgun, or pistol that can accept a detachable magazine and has any one of a list of standard features.

  • Disqualifying features that would cross the "assault weapon" line for rifles would be a pistol grip, forward grip, an adjustable stock, a barrel shroud, or a threaded barrel.
  • Pistols that have a buffer tube, threaded barrel, stabilizing brace, a weight of 50 ounces or more, can accept a magazine anywhere other than the grip, or a barrel shroud, would likewise be covered.
  • When it comes to shotguns, any with a fixed magazine capable of holding more than five shells and has a pistol grip or bird's head grip, the ability to accept a detachable magazine, or has such unserious features as "a functional grenade launcher," would be classified as an assault weapon. 

Beyer says the bill could be made law through the simple end-run past a Senate filibuster via the means of budget reconciliation. This week he offered it up as a proverbial nuclear option should current bipartisan negotiations on gun control measures in the Senate fail to yield results.

"If the Senate is able to agree on the legislative package currently under discussion, which would be a very positive development, my bill would give the Senate an option for further action to address the epidemic of gun violence," said Beyer. "It is essential that Congress take meaningful action to prevent gun violence, and the bill I am putting forward can cut through the gridlock and get it done."

Beyer's measure has been introduced as H.R. 8051 and has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means Committee, a body that has sole jurisdiction over taxation, on whose panel the congressman sits

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