Texas lawmaker wants tax holiday for guns, ammo sales

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramFebruary 27, 2013 


Ernie Vandergriff fires at a target during a class for a concealed handgun license at The Shooting Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas

RON JENKINS — Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT

— Texans love their independence -- and their guns.

State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, is proposing to give Texans more of both.

Leach has filed the "Texas Gun Ownership Reinforcement Act," a bill to create a new tax-free holiday where consumers won't be charged taxes on guns, ammunition or hunting supplies one day out of the year:

Texas Independence Day, March 2.

"Texas must take the lead in the fight against the federal government's attempts to infringe on our Second Amendment rights," Leach said, adding that this bill gives "law-abiding citizens, hunters and sportsmen the opportunity to save money on firearm and hunting equipment, benefiting Texas taxpayers and small business owners and spurring economic growth.

"As we fight against the federal government's overreach, there is no more appropriate day to instate this tax-free holiday than on Texas Independence Day."

Gun control advocate Marsha McCartney said the bill is a bad idea.

"I sometimes wonder if they just sit around late at night and try to think of some crazy bill when they have such important work to do," said McCartney, a spokeswoman for the Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "Maybe someone said, 'Hey, Texas has so much money, let's give these people a tax break.'"

Leach's proposal comes as members of Congress are working to address President Barack Obama's call for the country's most aggressive gun control proposal in decades. The plan, developed in the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December, includes requiring background checks on all gun purchases, banning assault weapons and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

Leach's bill -- which has drawn several co-authors, including Republican state Reps. Phil King of Weatherford and Jonathan Stickland of Bedford -- creates a definite contrast between Congress and the Texas Legislature.

Leach's bill would make certain items exempt from taxes on March 2, including shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers, gun cleaning supplies, gun cases, gun safes, ammunition, archery equipment, hunting stands, blinds and decoys.

Other states have similar programs in place.

Louisiana, for instance, has had a Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday weekend in September each year since 2010 that exempts firearms and related items from sales tax. That weekend costs the Pelican State around $600,000 a year, estimates show.

"Many hunters and other gun owners, along with owners of businesses which cater to these individuals, are sure to appreciate the legislation, even if its chances of passage are remote," said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. "Holding the tax-free holiday on Texas Independence Day underscores the linkage between Second Amendment rights and the ability of citizens to protect themselves from tyranny."

Jones said he doesn't believe the bill, which he describes as "symbolic," as having much of a chance of passing, especially at a time when state lawmakers are trying to stretch every penny as far as they can.

But supporters say the time is right to push the bill.

"What better way to express Texas's stand for constitutional principles than to recognize Texas Independence Day as a tax-free holiday for the very tools of self-defense the Constitution guarantees us," said King, one of the co-authors.

The bill, which has been referred to the House Ways & Means Committee, has drawn support from the National Rifle Association.

Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas in Arlington, believes the bill might survive.

"The bill may have a chance to pass, but some revenue, of course, would be lost," he said. "The message the bill sends is 'We are a gun state and aim to stay that way.'

"Frankly, this bill is as good as the tax holiday for school supplies," Saxe said. "But it could open up a lot of other legislation favoring various interests."

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