Jamie Ward of Bozrah (left) and Ben Kratzert of Burlington make their wishes known during a hearing on H.B. 5040, An Act Establishing an Excise Tax on Ammunition, in the Legislative Office Building on Feb. 27, 2020. Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio
Jamie Ward of Bozrah (left) and Ben Kratzert of Burlington make their wishes known during a hearing on H.B. 5040, An Act Establishing an Excise Tax on Ammunition, Thursday. Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio

A proposal to make gun owners pay a 35% ammunition tax drew a crowd of opponents to the Capitol Thursday to testify that the bill violates their Second Amendment rights and unfairly targets their hobbies and lifestyles.

Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, introduced H.B. 5040, An Act Establishing an Excise Tax on Ammunition, with the goal of using roughly $7 million in new tax revenue to fund statewide gun violence prevention and intervention efforts.

The tax would also apply to online sales in Connecticut. Law enforcement, correction and military personnel would be exempt from the tax.

Gilchrest said she does not view the tax as a punishment or penalty for gun owners or as a deterrent to ammunition purchases. But she says gun violence is expensive — costing the Connecticut economy $1.2 billion a year, according to the 2019 State-by-State Examination of the Economic Costs of Gun Violence conducted by the congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Given that guns come with a cost, Gilchrest said, gun owners “should pay a little more to support prevention efforts targeting urban communities.”

State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest speaks about her bill at the public hearing. Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio

Opponents of the bill crowded the Legislative Office Building to testify against the bill.

“The most important reason for this committee to deny this tax is that our right to keep and bear arms includes ammunition,” said New Milford resident Mark Conrad. “It is an integral and essential part of any firearm.”

Southington resident Jim Storms spoke on behalf of the sports shooting community.

“We’re your neighbors, your co-workers and your friends,” Storms said. “We didn’t create the problem of gun violence, and it’s relatively rare that any of us contribute to it. Now you want to place most of the burden on us to finance what amounts to a scavenger hunt for solutions.”

And Storms questioned the $1.2 billion figure Gilchrest uses when talking about the cost of gun violence.

“I’d like to see it broken down into line items because I’m skeptical,” Storms said.

Other concerns cited Thursday included the bill’s potential to harm small business owners and patrons, from gun shops to shooting ranges and safety classes. Opponents also were concerned that the new tax revenue would be used for anti-gun political advocacy and not gun violence prevention work.

Gilchrest introduced a similar bill during the last legislative session. That one came with a 50% tax, modeled after the state’s cigarette state, but it was unsuccessful. On Thursday, she fielded questions from members of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee for close to an hour. Rep. Vincent Candelora expressed concern that the estimated revenue could fall short.

State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Stonington, testified in opposition of the bill, highlighting that many of her constituents in low-income, rural areas rely on hunting to put food on the table. Others said they need firearms to protect themselves in parts of the state that don’t have their own independent police departments.

Supporters and opponents sat side by side as the debate over the bill stretched into the evening. Joe Amon / Connecticut Public Radio

But the bill also had its supporters. Darien resident Susan Vogel, who’s a member of the Connecticut chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the bill could benefit community organizations like Project Longevity, Mothers United Against Violence and Street Safe.

“We need these tireless, dedicated community-based gun violence prevention organizations working to reduce gun violence in our cities,” Vogel said. “And we need to provide them with the financial resources necessary to break the cycle of violence and care for the victims and survive when violence does occur.”

Brent Peterkin, the statewide director of Project Longevity, noted that if $55 million from the general fund can be appropriated for renovating Hartford’s XL Center, lawmakers could do the same to fund gun violence prevention organizations.

Excise taxes on ammunition are not new. A federal excise tax on ammunition and the import and production of firearms has existed since 1919, but few states, cities or counties have levied additional taxes.

More than 600 people submitted written testimony in opposition to the bill; there were fewer than 20 letters of support.

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6 Comments

  1. This isnt a tax, it is just one step closer to “Communism”, via “Social Engineering”.

    “Social engineering is based on the notion that Laws are used as a means to shape society and regulate people’s behaviour.”

    Those who doubt what I say, need to pick up their history books.

  2. Look at the “assault weapons ban”. Have you been to a gun store in Connecticut lately? If any of the people supporting this misguided proposal had been, they would realize very quickly how not understanding that which you wish to regulate can produce the opposite effect.

  3. This just gives people another reason to take a weekend trip to PA or NH. In the end, this will have no effect on city violence. Look at all the gun laws and costs since Sandy hook. Let’s be honest. Nothing has changed because it’s behaving that needs to change. Laws have no effect on criminals cause they don’t care about law.

  4. 7-8% of CT’s population represents the “Legal gun owner”, Gilchrest wants to subjectively Tax Gun owners, for her expansion into Gun Violence, she wants to be Governor, for an issue that is clearly, public health issue, she believes by punishing the careful, responsible, tax paying, legal gun owner, to pay for a mental illness justifies her ignorance of our State & Federal Constitution. Her ignorance of guns as they relate to crime, this taxation will pay for that, no it does not. Her wanting to tax a selected taxpayer for a penalty, not only is irresponsible, illegal, and unconstitutional. Please read “The Joyce Foundation” findings, done by professionals. think only about your side and you will never understand that your thinking is short sided and incomplete. This tax will ruin business in CT, lowering tax revenue, increase unemployment, welfare etc, and it misses the key point that we are already paying taxes for Mental Health issues, and Gilchrest is ignoring the illegal gun ownership in and High violent crime in her own district, w/o taking responsibility due to your inaction and going directly at the criminals. Don’t expect those who want to protect their families and communities, to help you pay for your lack of duty. Perhaps the the lazy way of pushing a tax increase into the hands of a few, is easier than regulating your own backyard, but don’t expect us to accept this Politically charged effort. Due your job, if you need a increase in taxes for mental health issues, be honest about it, not arrogant, your using the wrong tools, 1,800,000 taxpayers already have an enormous burden, , to the real issue, not the easy pc, wrong, one. For you to increase taxes to 7-8% of the population is, taxation w/o representation. your premise is way off.

    1. Hi Edward, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

  5. I have no skin in the game. Don’t own a gun. It’s a personal decision cause I don’t have steady hand. But I believe in the second amendment. With that said. I’d like to introduce you all to your new favorite weekend destination. Matamoras PA. It’s a small town in I84 so very easy to get to. They will gladly serve you and you will pay a lot less. And if you smoke and like fireworks. You’ll be even more happy cause they are available and cheap too. There’s a Perkins for breakfast, walmart you name it. I have a summer home in pike county and seriously, great place. You’ll have a great time.

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