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These fact checks of North Carolina politics are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's Morning Edition.

Fact Check: Does bill impose 1,000% tax on ‘most firearms’?

It’s time for a fact-check of North Carolina politics. And this week we are looking at a claim made by Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis.

In an email sent to supporters last month, Tillis said: “The Democrats are once again trying to infringe on the constitutional rights of America’s citizens by proposing a 1000% gun tax on most firearms.” For more on that, we turn now to Paul Specht of WRAL.

Marshall Terry: So what is Tillis referring to here? Is this an actual proposal that's coming up for votes or hearings?

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. (R-NC)
North Carolina General Assembly
U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. (R-NC)

Paul Specht: There is a proposed 1,000% tax on some weapons by Congressman Don Beyer of Virginia. Now, he proposed the same bill in 2022 and he's reintroduced it in 2023. And it is targeting assault weapons. It would be a 1,000% excise tax on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, and then other attachments, if you will, that can go on firearms. And so it is real. It's a bill brought up by a Democrat in the Republican-controlled House, so it's probably not going anywhere, but this proposal does exist.

Terry: So you said assault weapons. So would that be a weapon like the AR-15 rifle that would be subject to this tax? I mean, that's of course a popular gun that's also often been used in mass shootings.

Specht: Correct, that gun would apply under this bill. And one thing we should say is the term assault weapon has not had a consistent definition through the years. This one that Congressman Beyer used would capture many of the same ones that fell under the old assault weapons ban of 1994 that lasted until 2004, when it expired. But yes, the AR-15 would fall under this bill.

Terry: So what would be the goal of this legislation?

Specht: Well, it seems like the goal is to make it harder for anyone to get what President Biden has referred to as "weapons of war" — you know, these assault weapons that can fire many rounds in a short amount of time. Obviously, these types of weapons have been used in school shootings and things like that. The theory would be jacking up the price would possibly keep them out of the hands of people that might use them for the wrong purposes.

Terry: Now one of the phrases that stood out to me in Tillis' claim is "most firearms." What does that mean exactly?

Specht: Well, we had trouble finding out just how many weapons this would apply to for multiple reasons. For one, there's no national gun registry. Guns are bought and sold in the U.S. daily, and many of them are not recorded in any way. That makes it hard. Secondly, this bill has many variables. So yes, it does have a definition of what it calls "assault weapons," but then the part about large-capacity magazines has many things that apply. If a gun has a pistol grip attached to it, it could potentially be subject to this 1,000% tax. And so what experts told us was there are so many variables in this bill and how it could potentially be enforced. They make (it) really hard to determine what percentage of the marketplace would be affected.

Terry: OK. So how did you rate this claim, then, by Sen. Thom Tillis?

Specht: We rated this "half true." The true part being, yes, there is a proposed 1,000% tax on some firearms, and it would be at the point of sale. It's not on guns people already possess, which is a detail that the email left out. But it is true there's a proposed 1,000% tax on some guns.

Now the second part of it — whether it would affect most firearms — we just don't know. We got mixed reviews from experts in and out of the gun industry. And it seems like it's almost impossible to really pinpoint how this bill would be applied, and whether it would affect the majority of the marketplace. That really leaves us with no other rating than "half true."

Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.