A 5 cent per bullet tax will be proposed in Pennsylvania as part of legislation to be brought forth by two state House Democrats, Rep. Manny Guzman and Rep. Stephen Kinsey.
The tax would fund a state police database of ammunition sold in Pennsylvania.
The planned legislation would require ammunition manufacturers to encode ammunition provided for retail sale in Pennsylvania, and to provide ammunition serial numbers to the Pennsylvania State Police for the ammunition database. The plan was revealed in a joint memo to the state legislature by Guzman and Kinsey.
“Since 2015, only 21% of the nearly 8,500 shootings that Philadelphia has endured have resulted in an arrest or conviction,” the memo said. “Far too often, all that is left for the police to find is a victim and a bullet. By making the bullet a more useable piece of evidence, independent from the associated firearm, we can give our law enforcement officers the tools that they need to solve more of these heinous crimes.”
“By maintaining a record of purchases of ammunition,” the memo continues, “our law enforcement officers will be able to easily trace the ownership of any ammunition involved in a crime. This proposal is a much more reliable method of forensic tracing than current systems like ballistic fingerprinting, since determination of a bullet’s code does not require any special skills or equipment, and it serves as an objective identifier.”
“It is time for us to keep track of these lethal weapons and ensure that we have the tools necessary to convict individuals who use their firearms for unlawful purposes,” the memo said.
The plan would impose a 5 cent per round tax. Ammunition owners could file for a tax credit of one-half of a percent (0.5 percent) of the gross amount of the tax paid.
That is, a 50 cent tax return for every $100 spent in bullet taxes. A purchase of 2,000 rounds would cost $100 in tax.
Gun Owners of America-Pennsylvania Director Val Finnell says the plan amounts to registration and taxation of a constitutional right, to own ammunition.
“If you register your ammo, that’s a prelude to confiscation, just like firearms registration would be,” Finnell said, noting that if a bill to ban certain ammunition is passed, an ammunition database would show law enforcement who has ammunition to confiscate.
“This is the agenda of Philadelphia Democrats: registration and confiscation,” Finnell said. “They say ‘we just want common-sense gun laws to help police’ but criminals are going to obtain guns anyway. The only ones it affects are law-abiding citizens.”
Finnell predicts the bill will not move in the Republican-led General Assembly.
Republican state Rep. Matthew Dowling, chair of the Pennsylvania House Second Amendment Caucus, says lawmakers shouldn’t be weighing down state police with managing an ammunition database that should not exist.
“Not only is this onerous for state police who should be using resources in other ways, it’s a violation of privacy standards,” Dowling said. “This is on top of the fact that we have a massive shortage of ammo. Law-abiding citizens are having a hard time trying to get their hands on ammo. This will only make it more difficult for them.”
It is unclear how such a law would address unmarked ammunition from other states or the ammunition already owned by Pennsylvanians.
Neither Guzman nor Kinsey responded to calls and emails requesting comment.
Although Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s mask mandate and other COVID-19-related restrictions have ended, Kinsey’s Philadelphia constituent office had a recording explaining the office is closed “out of an abundance of caution” due to the risk of COVID-19. Kinsey did have staff in his Harrisburg capitol building office.