Murphy shoots for new tax on gun purchases in NJ
TRENTON — Tucked into Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget plan, among plans to extend the sales tax to ridesharing, home-sharing and legalized marijuana, is a little-noticed proposal to create an additional sales tax on the purchase of firearms.
It has gotten practically no attention, probably because it accounts for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of more than $1.5 billion in proposed tax hikes.
“The notion was first of all, among other things, we’ve got taxes and fees that are literally been in the same place since I think in some cases the 1960s. So it’s an updating and modernizing it,” said Murphy. “And I think that our philosophy on top of that was to let’s get at the stuff that is still available that we think are more frequently than not involved in gun crimes.”
Murphy promised to enact a firearms tax last year as a candidate.
The budget plan forecasts $1.4 million in revenue from the tax, though there are no details about what the tax rate would be or how that total was calculated. The Treasury Department said the proposal would apply to all firearms.
Assemblyman John DiMaio, R-Warren, said the proposed tax is really a political policy to infringe the Second Amendment right to own guns by making it cost more.
“Of course this administration is going to do what it can to affect firearms sales,” DiMaio said. “They believe that the Second Amendment doesn’t matter as much to them as some of us in the state of New Jersey.”
“It’s a political statement, in my mind, for the small amount of revenue that it brings in. But it does hamper one’s ability to protect their family if they choose to do so,” he said.
Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, D-Essex, said it’s an option on the table, like the other taxes Murphy has proposed, but was mostly noncommittal.
Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex, said the tax doesn’t sound big enough to deter gun buyers and that he’d be supportive.
“In the bigger scheme of our budget, it doesn’t mean the difference between programs going forward versus not. But it can’t hurt,” McKeon said.
It’s not clear what the tax rate would be to yield $1.4 million in state revenues, but it would appear to be significantly higher than the special taxes on guns and ammunition that currently exist in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Seattle and Chicago.
A $1,000 gun tax adopted in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, was ruled unconstitutional in 2016.
While these numbers don’t necessarily correlate to the number of guns sold each year in New Jersey, data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows the number of firearms registered in the state has been growing recently at around 1,800 a year.
There were 57,507 firearms registered in New Jersey, according to a 2017 annual report – up from 55,672 in 2016, 54,612 in 2015, 51,670 in 2014, 50,712 in 2013, 48,989 in 2012 and 46,605 in 2011.