House Bill for 1,000% Tax on Assault Weapons to Be Filibuster-Proof: Beyer

Representative Donald Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, is seeking to introduce a 1,000 percent tax on assault weapons through a reconciliation process that would not require any Republican votes.

The congressman said the bill is meant to discourage Americans from buying deadly weapons that have been used in frequent mass shootings across the country. In the past three weeks alone, shootings in New York, California, Texas, and Oklahoma have left dozens of adults and children dead.

"What it's intended to do is provide another creative pathway to actually make some sensible gun control happen," Beyer told Insider in an article published Sunday, while discussing his proposal. "We think that a 1,000% fee on assault weapons is just the kind of restrictive measure that creates enough fiscal impact to qualify for reconciliation."

Reconciliation is a tactic that can allow laws to bypass the Senate's 60-vote requirement known as the filibuster. Under this process, a law can pass with a simple majority so long as every Democratic lawmaker supports it. Democrats used this strategy last year to approve a COVID-19 relief package and the House-approved Build Back Better bill.

House Bill for 1,000% Tax on Assault
Representative Donald Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, is seeking to introduce a 1,000 percent tax on assault weapons. In this combination image, Beyer speaks as the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee holds a markup hearing to craft the Democrats' Build Back Better Act. A customer looks at handguns in a case as AR-15-style rifles hang on a wall. AP/Getty

One expert told Insider that Beyer's measure could meet the threshold of bypassing the filibuster because "taxes get more deference in budget reconciliation than other policies from a parliamentarian point of view."

However, the bill would still likely face significant hurdles, even among Democrats. Multiple lawmakers have previously proposed tax hikes on guns and ammunition in an attempt to drive down sales, but have been unsuccessful. Beyer's proposal also marks a much more significant tax increase than Democrats have targeted in the past.

The bill would only focus on assault weapons, such as AR-15s, but would not include a tax increase on bullets. However, any high-capacity magazines that can carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition would be aggressively targeted, according to Insider.

AR-15-style guns can range in price from $500 to $1,000, meaning that a 1,000 percent tax increase could add $5,000 to $10,000 to their final sales price. The Democratic lawmaker said that he's open to negotiating that figure, however, but that the goal is to drive down gun purchases and limit the number of assault weapons in circulation.

"There's nothing magical about that thousand percent number. It's severe enough to actually inhibit and restrict sales. But also successful enough that it's not seen as an absolute ban," Beyer told Insider.

His proposal comes as Democrats and Republicans continue to spar over gun legislation in the aftermath of recent attacks against schools, grocery stores, churches, and medical centers.

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden called on Congress to either ban the sale of assault weapons, or raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21. He also called for a ban on high-capacity magazines, as well as increased background check requirements, and a repeal of the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability if their weapons are used in deadly attacks.

"How much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say enough? Enough," the president said in an impassioned speech to the nation. "It's time to act. For the children we've lost. For the children we can save. For the nation we love. Let's hear the call and the cry. Let's meet the moment. Let us finally do something."

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the potential price increase from the proposed tax.