Senate wants to spare gun safety devices from sales tax

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan Senate passed legislation Thursday that would temporarily spare purchasers of gun safes, trigger locks and other firearms safety devices from state sales and use taxes.

The tax exemptions would take effect 90 days after the two bills became law and last until Jan. 1, 2018. The bills, sponsored by Republican Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton, passed on 37-0 votes and now go to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives for consideration.

The Senate included an amendment from Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, requiring stores selling the safety devices to conspicuously post notices about the tax exemptions and provide written notices about them to purchasers. Warren said the state should do what it could to promote their sales while the exemption from the 6 percent tax is in effect.

Schuitmaker promoted the tax exemption by arguing more residents would buy firearms safety devices, and fewer children would die in gun accidents. It applies to gun safes, lock boxes, trigger and barrel locks “and other items designed to enhance home firearm safety.”

Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington state reportedly have similar exemptions, the Senate Fiscal Agency said in its analysis of the bills.

The fiscal agency noted an opposing argument that the savings from the tax exemption might be relatively small and ineffective. For example, trigger locks can cost as little as $10, resulting in savings of 60 cents with a sales tax exemption. Savings on gun safes, which can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, would be more substantial.

The measures, if broadly interpreted, could reduce state revenue as much as $1 million a year based on Treasury Department estimates.

The legislation is among bills currently supported by Senate committees that would result in $82 million worth of reductions in property taxes and state school aid revenue, according to the fiscal agency analysis.

Last year, the Legislature reportedly enacted laws that resulted in a $160-million reduction to the School Aid Fund, the fiscal agency said.

The School Aid Fund receives about 73 percent of the revenue collected from the 6-percent state sales tax, according to revenue distribution reports from the House and Senate fiscal agencies.