Texans love a good sale. The "tax-free weekend," or the three days before the start of every school year when most clothing and school supplies under $100 are free of sales tax, is a big shopping day for parents. Now it appears as though gun enthusiasts could get the same kind of shopping incentive.
State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) has filed a new bill that would create a tax holiday for the sale of guns and accessories on March 2—that's Texas Independence Day, for all of the non-native Texans out there. H.B. 1533, or the Texas Gun Ownership Reinforcement Act, seeks to make the sale of all firearms and hunting supplies exempt from the state sales tax for one 24-hour period.
In the bill's language, hunting supplies include "ammunition, archery equipment, hunting blinds and stands, hunting decoys, firearm cleaning supplies, gun cases and gun safes, and hunting optics." It's unclear why hunting supplies figure so prominently in the bill, but perhaps it is because Leach may have a broader agenda than saving hunters a few bucks. In an interview with KDFW Fox, Leach takes a familiar stance against federal encroachment on gun rights in the post-Sandy Hook gun debate:
We've experienced--as we've seen throughout the past few months--the federal government's attempted infringement on our second amendment rights. All throughout the United States--Wyoming, Oklahoma, even here in Texas--we've had various pieces of legislation filed that are meant to--in a defensive sense--preserve and protect [these] rights...This is meant to encourage lawful gun ownership in Texas. We believe Texas should be taking the lead on this issue.
Leadership in drafting policy, in Leach's view, is necessary for Texas to compete with other states that have already enacted similar legislation. In 2008 South Carolina instituted a three-day tax holiday after Thanksgiving, dubbed "Second Amendment Weekend" to encourage sales. The practice was discontinued in 2011 due to state budget constraints and may only be reinstated by receiving approval in the state's annual budget.
Louisiana currently has an annual sales tax holiday on guns and hunting equipment (including all-terrain vehicles and airboats), which Leach references as an example to follow in his push to make Texas more competitive in the gun market. “Gun owners and gun manufacturers in Texas need to know that Texas stands behind them,” Leach told WFAA-TV.
Texas is not necessarily lagging behind in gun sales. In December 2012, Salon.com ranked Texas as number four in a list of states where gun sales are soaring. Jim Pruett, owner of Jim Pruett's guns in Houston told the Houston Chronicle that gun sales have been brisk, especially since President Obama's reelection. "We haven't been able to keep up with it," said Pruett. "It's beyond our wildest imagination."
All those gun sales could equal a lot of lost tax dollars. Louisiana loses an average of $600,000 of sales tax during its annual tax holiday on guns, wrote Jonathan Betz for WFAA. South Carolina state representative Mike Pitts estimated that a gun tax holiday would have only cost his state $13,000 in 2012. Leach told KDFW that he discussed this issue with state comptroller Susan Combs, and he believes the cost will be minimal to Texas.
Dollars and cents aside, Leach is selling his bill to the public as a political statement to Washington disguised as an economic booster. "This is sending a message, said Leach. "We don't believe in filing bills just to send a message. I certainly don't believe in kicking political footballs. Texas can take leadership on these second amendment issues nation-wide." Though it's not as brash as state Rep. Steve Toth's proposed bill that would essentially negate any federal laws limiting gun ownership, Leach's bill is a bold statement for a freshman legislator. It's a move that will surely gain traction in gun-friendly Texas.