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Beyer Introduces Reconciliation-Ready Legislation To Restrict Assault Weapons

Assault Weapons Excise Act would impose 1000% excise tax on manufacturer, importer, or producer of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. As revenue measure, could pass in Senate with simple 50-vote majority via reconciliation

Rep. Don Beyer today introduced the Assault Weapons Excise Act, legislation that would impose a 1000 percent excise tax on the manufacture, production, or importation of assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines. The bill contains an exemption for federal, state, and local government entities, so the armed services and law enforcement would be unaffected. As a revenue measure, the bill is designed to be included in budget reconciliation legislation and withstand challenges under the Byrd Rule, creating a pathway to pass a new restriction on assault weapons with a simple majority in the Senate. Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, which has sole jurisdiction over taxation.

“Congress must take action to stem the flood of weapons of war into American communities, which have taken a terrible toll in Uvalde, Buffalo, Tulsa, and too many other places,” said Beyer. “Again and again assault weapons designed for use on the battlefield have been used in mass shootings at schools, grocery stores, hospitals, churches, synagogues, malls, theaters, bars, and so on. As the response in Uvalde shows, even law enforcement feel outgunned. I have voted in the past for commonsense gun safety reforms only to see them run aground on Senate Republicans’ filibuster; my bill presents a pathway to bypass that obstruction and enact lifesaving measures. 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. 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.”

Text of the Assault Weapons Excise Act defines firearms and ammunition magazines subject to its 1000 percent excise tax using updated language and terms largely drawn from Rep. David Cicilline’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2021, of which Rep. Beyer is a cosponsor.

The man who killed 19 children and 2 teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde used an AR-15 model rifle which reportedly retails for $1,870. If the Assault Weapons Excise Act were enacted, the cost of the same gun would be $18,700.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution specifically delegates to Congress the “power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises.” It has already used this power previously with respect to firearms, including in the passage of the National Firearms Act in 1934, which imposed large excise taxes on certain classes of firearms that have remained in effect for nearly 90 years. U.S. code currently imposes taxes on the manufacture, production, or importation of all firearms at either 10 or 11 percent depending on the kind of weapon.

Regulation of firearms at the federal level is subject to the landmark ruling in DC v. Heller, written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, which held that “the Second Amendment right is not unlimited,” and specifically recognized the permissibility of “laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms” and prohibitions on “dangerous and unusual weapons.” Congress previously passed an Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, which was upheld in the courts many times and remained in effect for ten years until its statutory sunset.

The Assault Weapons Excise Act was introduced with 36 original cosponsors: Reps. Anthony Brown (D-MD), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), David Scott (D-GA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Sean Casten (D-IL), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), Tom Malinowksi (D-NJ), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Dina Titus (D-NV), Steve Cohen (D-TN), James Langevin (D-RI), Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Andre Carson (D-IN), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), and David Price (D-NC), and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Text of the bill is available here.