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Beyer to propose 1,000 percent tax on assault-style weapons

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is drafting legislation to impose a hefty tax on assault-style weapons in the wake of recent mass shootings across the United States. 

Beyer’s office told The Hill the proposal was a workaround to avoid GOP opposition to legislation outright banning the high-capacity weapons.

“Congressman Beyer has seen action to prevent gun violence obstructed by Senate Republicans using the filibuster after horrific mass shootings for years, this legislation represents an effort to put a new option on the table for those who believe that gun safety reforms are urgently needed to save lives,” Beyer’s deputy chief of staff Aaron Fritschner said in an email.

Beyer’s proposal would tax AR-15 model weapons and other firearms considered “assault” weapons according to terms set out in a separate bill from Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Breyer’s office told The Hill.

That act defines such firearms as “military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines,” according to a press release from Cicilline at the time of its introduction in March of last year. 

Instead of completely banning assault weapons, Beyer’s proposal would impose a 1,000 percent tax on the weapons for manufacturers, producers, and importers. The bill would exempt government entities like law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels, as well as the military.

The price for new AR-15-style guns range $500 to more than $2,000, according to NBC News. As such, a 1,000 percent tax on the would increase the price of those weapons to anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. 

Gun control legislation would have to meet a 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, making passage highly unlikely even if all 50 Democrats are united. 

However, a tax would be more likely to be allowed to move through budget reconciliation, which would only require 50 votes to pass. 

“Taxes get more deference in budget reconciliation than other policies from a parliamentarian point of view,” Zach Moller, director of Third Way’s economic program, told Business Insider.

Beyer’s proposal comes after a series of high-profile mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y, Uvalde, Texas and Tulsa, Okla. have moved gun control to the top of Democrats’ agenda. However, Democratic leaders have also been cautious about forcing members to take tough votes ahead of crucial midterm elections.

A number of gun reforms being discussed are broadly popular with the public. A recent survey from Morning Consult and Politico showing that 88 percent of respondents supported a background check requirement on all gun sales.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that House Democrats would soon consider legislation banning military-style assault weapons, marking Congress’s most aggressive response to date on gun control.

Zach Schonfeld contributed to this report.

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