Thursday, a public hearing was held at the Capitol over a proposal to tax ammunition by an additional 35%.
Nearly 50 people signed up to testify on this issue, and many spoke out against the proposal.
“I feel this just goes too far. They just keep nibbling and taking away, taking away,” said Skip Roberts of Higganum.
Recently retired, Roberts said he’s on a fixed income. He owns a gun to keep his family safe and estimates a day of practice at the range will cost him and his wife close to $100 more if the ammunition excise tax is approved.
“If they really want to prevent violence they would enforce the laws on the books now,” said Roberts.
The bill’s author, Rep. Jillian Gilchrest of West Hartford, testified before her fellow lawmakers on the finance committee, Thursday.
“Why should the 84% of Connecticut residents who chose not to own guns have to pay the same for gun violence as the 16% who take all the risk by owning them?” she asked.
Gilchrest’s proposal drew scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats.
“I just think it’s a step too far,” said Sen. Steve Cassano, (D) Manchester.
“I think we’re traveling down a very dangerous slope if we’re trying to punish somebody exercising their second amendment rights by raising the cost of something to make it unobtainable,” added Sen. Kevin Witkos, (R) Canton.
Gilchrest said her aim is not to deter people from legally owning a gun. She pointed to a congressional report that showed gun violence cost Connecticut taxpayers over $1 billion in 2019. She said that amounted to $333 a person. She argued that putting money toward prevention would save all taxpayers in the long run.
She was peppered with questions about why she seemed to be targeting gun owners instead of all taxpayers.
“Most criminal acts actually take place with a firearm which was once legally purchased. And so, yes law-abiding gun owners should pay a little more,” she answered.
“This is an important and creative piece of legislation that helps us do something that we haven’t been able to do for,” said Susan Vogel, a member of the Connecticut chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Vogel said that this could fully fund gun violence prevention. Gilchrest said the $7 million she estimates would be collected annually would support programs in Connecticut’s four largest cities. She pointed out that only two such programs receive state money right now and those funds have been cut in recent years.
“It reduces our ability to strive to make an impact in the communities we support,” said Brent Peterkin of Project Longevity which is one of the programs receiving state funds.
Shelton Republican Rep. Jason Perillo said the state should focus more on mental health.
“If there are programs that need more funding then we as a legislature ought to stand behind that and move funding from other areas into that not generate another tax to pay for it,” he added.
Gilchrest called the 35% excise tax a starting point and offered to negotiate with lawmakers about the amount and how the money is spent.