A group of blue state Democrats, allied with big-name anti-gun groups, are looking to fund the latter’s pet projects via an increase in a mandatory excise tax, including expanding it to include AR-15-type lower receivers. 

The measure, nobly named "The Gun Violence Prevention and Safe Communities Act," taxes guns sold commercially in the U.S. to create guaranteed annual funding for a host of progressive programs and initiatives. While not named or described in detail, a press release from U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, a Chicago-area Democrat who backs the bill, says recipients would include "community-based violence prevention grants" and "gun violence research." 

The text of the proposal, introduced last week in the U.S. House as H.R.4283, is not publicly available, but the sponsor's office says it will increase the long-standing Pittman-Robertson Act excise tax by "just half a percent and apply the federal excise firearms tax to assault-weapon frames and receivers, which currently are not taxed if sold separately."

The Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, better known as the Pittman-Robertson fund, is fueled through excise taxes paid by gun and ammunition makers on their products at a rate of 11 percent on long guns and ammo and 10 percent on handguns. The tax flows from the Treasury Department to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which in turn makes it available to state conservation agencies. Dating to 1937, it has fed more than $15 billion from the firearms industry over the past 85 years to support things like public shooting ranges, wildlife habitat preservation, game restoration, and hunters’ education. 

However, the Pittman-Robertson tax is paid on firearm receivers that are manufactured as a single unit, which means that unassembled AR-15 type receivers, unless they are manufactured or imported as part of a complete, fully assembled firearm, are exempt from the tax. That's where H.R.4283 would come in and add another 10-11 percent to the cost, which in turn would likely be passed on by manufacturers to consumers. 

To put that into perspective in terms of how many miscellaneous receivers are made annually, Anderson Manufacturing produced 471,787 in 2021 alone, while Aero Precision logged another 174,091. Davis's office estimates that the additional taxes on receivers, coupled with the overall bump in the excise tax to other firearms, could skim as much as $36 million per year from the firearms industry – and gun buyers by proxy – to fund gun control efforts. 

This legislation is supported by all the big brand gun control groups including Brady, Everytown, Giffords, the Newtown Action Alliance, and the Violence Policy Center, with the latter describing the bill as an "innovative strategy to provide dedicated funding for gun violence prevention."

H.R.4283 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee as well as the Committees on the Judiciary, and Energy and Commerce. Besides Davis, it has five co-sponsors. 

Banner image: Aero Precision EPC9 lower receiver. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

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