Virginia Democrat Rep. Don Beyer is drafting a measure that could heavily tax purchases of AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons, legislation that could potentially bypass a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
Beyer’s proposal would impose a 1,000 percent tax on the purchase of assault-style weapons, as well as some accessories, including high-capacity magazines. Such a tax would mean that the minimum costs for a new model of the AR-15 rifle, which is frequently used in mass shootings, could jump from $500 to $5,000, for example.
The cost increases wouldn’t mean that no one could buy the rifle — some versions of the AR-15 sell for thousands of dollars already — but it would create difficulties for those with modest incomes, including younger individuals, and could potentially deter people from buying such weapons on a whim.
Beyer said that he was inspired to seek creative solutions to the issue due to Republicans’ refusal to cooperate with Democrats following the recent massacres in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. Gun control measures from Democrats have previously failed to pass, and even a bipartisan effort in Congress would have to defeat a filibuster in the Senate, meaning that it would have to be backed by at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to pass.
Beyer’s proposal, however, sidesteps the 60-vote threshold needed to bypass the filibuster. Instead, his bill could be attached to a reconciliation package, which would allow it to pass both houses of Congress with a simple majority vote.
“What [the proposal is] intended to do is provide another creative pathway to actually make some sensible gun control happen,” Beyer told Insider regarding his as-yet undrafted bill. “We think that a 1,000 percent fee on assault weapons is just the kind of restrictive measure that creates enough fiscal impact to qualify for reconciliation.”
Beyer is open to negotiating on the rate at which AR-15s and other weapons could be taxed, and said that there’s “nothing magical” about the number he chose. But the rate has to be significant enough, he said, to “actually inhibit and restrict sales,” while still not being “an absolute ban.”
Ultimately, the bill is aimed at “restrict[ing] the flow of weapons of war into American communities,” the Virginia congressman said on Twitter..
Although the measure could bypass a Senate filibuster, it still faces difficult odds of passage. It’s possible that conservative Democrats will vote against Beyer’s bill, perhaps out of fear that implementing gun restrictions could hurt their reelection chances in this year’s midterms. And even though Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) has said that he is open to passing an assault weapons ban, he could still oppose the method that Beyer’s bill would employ to cut down AR-15 sales.
In wake of the recent string of mass shootings across the country, Americans appear to be more receptive to gun control measures, though they aren’t very optimistic that any legislation will be passed. Fifty-five percent of Americans in a recent Economist/YouGov poll said they would support a ban on assault weapons, while only 33 percent said they would oppose such a ban. Meanwhile, only 15 percent of Americans believe that any measure on guns can be passed by Congress this year, while 43 percent say it’s not likely to happen.