Texas lawmaker wants a sales tax holiday for guns and ammo

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Texans love their independence - and their guns.

Now state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, proposes giving Texans a little 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."

Marsha McCartney said this 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 Obama's call for the country's most aggressive gun control initiative 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 - draws a definite contrast between Congress and the Texas Legislature.

"The bill will certainly accomplish its principal goal, highlighting Rep. Leach's status as a strong supporter of second amendment rights at a time when President Obama and congressional Democrats enact additional gun control legislation at the federal level," said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

Leach's bill would make certain items exempt from taxes on March 2, including shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers, handguns, 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 taxes. 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," Jones said. "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."

A symbolic measure?

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

"What better way to express Texas' 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 and Means Committee, has drawn support from the National Rifle Association.

"Rep. Leach's House Bill 1533 supports lawful gun ownership and encourages Texas sportsmen to spend their money here at home," said Tara Mica, state liaison for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. "While bolstering our Texas economy, this common-sense legislation goes a long way toward promoting our Second Amendment freedoms."

McCartney, with the Brady Campaign, said hundreds of people die each year in gun homicides.

"Perhaps they should worry about how to make our community safer, rather than how to sell more guns for the gun lobby," she said. "This is one of those silly bills that gets a lot of attention."

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."

Anna M. Tinsley, (817) 390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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