A majority of Georgia’s senators want to let people buy guns, ammunition and gun safes without paying sales tax for five days each fall, while some House members are considering a narrower tax break for only gun safety devices.
Republicans favor both approaches, partly in an election-year nod to gun owners, but Democrats favor only tax breaks for safety devices.
The Senate voted 30-22 on Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 344, sending it to the House for more debate. Sen. Jason Anavitarte, the Dallas Republican who is sponsoring the measure, says the tax break would promote hunting and the control of Georgia’s deer population. The tax holiday would last for five days in October just before the beginning of deer hunting season.
“We hope to expand the base of hunters and increase the tax revenue devoted to conservation,” Anavitarte said.
But Democrats said they don’t believe that Republicans are just interested in promoting hunting, noting that in committee GOP members rejected an amendment to limit the tax break to hunting rifles. They said the measure would encourage more guns and more violence.
“Instead of looking out for children and families, we’re looking out for gun manufacturers,” said Sen. Jason Esteves, an Atlanta Democrat. “You want to pander to politics that at the end of the day do not help everyday Georgians.”
Democrats said the measure reflects Republicans’ misplaced priorities. Georgia once had a back-to-school sales tax holiday that was allowed to lapse after 2016. Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes, a Duluth Democrat, said she would also prefer measures to exempt baby formula or tampons from sales tax.
“Today is a stark testament to where our priorities lie when we can’t muster the political will to ease the struggles of everyday Georgians, but we can leap into action on a sales tax holiday for guns.”
The debate was less partisan during a House Ways and Means subcommittee Tuesday. There, Republicans and Democrats expressed support for a $300 state income tax credit that could be used to pay for gun training, gun safes or gun locks.
“This allows those individuals to get properly trained in safe handling and use and storage of a firearm and to obtain a safe storage device,” said Rep. Mark Newton, an Augusta Republican sponsoring the bill.
Georgia Democrats have spent years trying to persuade Republicans to require guns to be locked up at home. They say such a measure would keep thieves from stealing guns and block other residents of a home from accessing guns without the owner’s permission. This year, some of the top Democratic voices are backing the tax credit, hoping to at least promote secured storage if they can’t mandate it.
“I just want to tell you how thrilled I am that this bill is getting some traction,” said Rep. Spencer Frye, an Athens Democrat.
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