PHOENIX — State lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to make guns slightly more affordable and, in the words of a lobbyist, not force people to choose between buying products from groceries and buy a gun.
In a 6-4 vote, with only Republicans in favor, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday agreed to exempt sales of firearms, ammunition and “gun safety equipment” national and local sales taxes.
Dave Kopp, lobbyist for the Arizona Citizens’ Defense League, said House Bill 2166 is consistent with – and added to – a list of other sales tax exemptions for health products. and security.
“We strongly believe guns are part of that,” he said.
It didn’t work out with Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix.
He pointed out, for example, that the state taxes feminine hygiene products. Ditto, he says, for parents who are legally required to obtain child safety seats for their vehicles.
Kopp replied that he would also support the exemption of these.
Bowie said the other reason lawmakers give tax breaks is for economic development purposes, like attracting more jobs and investment.
“To me, it looks like the gun industry is doing pretty well right now,” he said.
Kopp did not dispute this. But he said that was looking at the matter from the wrong side.
“I believe this is not intended to help the gun industry per se, but to help the gun industry’s customers,” Kopp said.
Bowie asked if there were people who didn’t buy guns because of the 5.6 percent state sales tax and various local taxes.
“I doubt it,” Kopp conceded. “But if it becomes a situation where you have to buy a gun or you have to buy groceries, that sales tax could make all the difference.”
This theme was taken up by Cheryl Todd. She is the Arizona coordinator for the DC Project, a women’s gun rights organization.
“As someone who is called upon to balance my family’s budget and stretch my family’s dollars as much as possible, a bill like this will not only benefit my family, but especially low-income families and to those hardest hit by our increasingly diminished purchasing power that inflation exerts on our dollars,” she said.
And Todd said she considers firearms and related gear to be “vital self-defense tools”.
“It is well documented that at least 2.5 million lives a year are saved by responsibly armed citizens using these tools,” she said.
There is evidence, not produced by the gun industry and its supporters, to back this up. This includes a 2013 study published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that indicates a range of 60,000 to 2.5 million uses of self-defence weapons each year.
But the measure, which now goes to the full Senate, is not the same as what Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, was able to guide through the House.
This version was intended to create an absolute sales tax exclusion for all weapons. But Kaiser said some Republican senators have said they would support an exemption only for the sale of used weapons and equipment sold in retail stores.
The exemption for safety equipment includes devices which, when fitted to a firearm, prevent it from firing without first being deactivated. This would also cover the new electronic interlocks which allow the weapon to be fired only by someone authorized to use it.
There would also be no sales tax on gun safes and other safes designed to allow access only by things like a key, combination lock or thumbprint.