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Louisiana holiday gives tax breaks for guns

A law crafted with NRA input creates a '2nd amendment weekend holiday' giving shoppers a tax break on firearms and ammunition the first weekend in September. One gun-control advocate calls it absurd.

September 05, 2009|Richard Fausset

ATLANTA — Happy 2nd Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday, everyone!

An observance of that name is underway this weekend in Louisiana, thanks to a law signed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal in July. It decrees that each year, on the first Friday through Sunday in September, shoppers in the Bayou State shall be exempt from paying state or local taxes on firearms, ammunition or hunting supplies.

The law was sponsored by state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr., who said in a statement that it will "save families money, boost retailers' sales, and help our economy in this worldwide recession where every little bit helps."

For Randy Matthews, owner of the Cash-N-A-Flash pawn and gun shop in Bossier City, in the state's northwest corner, the boost to business was a nice bonus, although the pawn business is booming anyway in the recession.

What Matthews appreciated more, however, was the message the event was sending to the White House and beyond.

The law shows that government "is not just trying to attack gun rights, but trying to actually support them," he said.

That was a key goal of the National Rifle Assn., which worked with state legislators to craft the bill.

Guns sales have surged famously with the election of Barack Obama in November, as gun owners feared a curtailment of their rights under a liberal administration.

President Obama and the Democratic Congress have not made gun control a priority so far; in fact, the president signed a bill that allows licensed gun owners to carry loaded weapons into national parks and wildlife refuges.

But the fear of an expanded crackdown remains. Sightings of gun-packing citizens at heated town hall healthcare rallies and near presidential appearances have helped keep the issue in the news.

The tax holiday appeared to spark little concern in Louisiana, where a rich hunting and fishing tradition is celebrated by the official state slogan, "Sportsman's Paradise."

The bill's sponsor, Marionneaux, who hails from tiny Livonia, just west of Baton Rouge, is a Democrat.

But Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., pointed out that Louisiana has the highest gun death rate of any state in the nation -- 19.58 deaths per 100,000 people, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2006, the most recent figures available.

In its 2008 score card of states, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ranked Louisiana last in the nation, tied with Kentucky and Oklahoma, for what the gun-control group calls "sensible gun laws."

"This goes beyond ironic to absurdist," Sugarmann said of the tax holiday. "The question is, what are they going to offer next? Tax holidays on coffins?"

Matthews, the Bossier City gun dealer, scoffed at the idea that the guns going out his door would be used for anything other than the hunt, noting that background checks ensure the weapons go to upstanding citizens.

This week, he has set aside two Remington shotguns, as well as a 30-aught-6 and a Weatherby .270 rifle for customers who said they'd pick them up this weekend.

Dove season around here starts today, with deer season not far behind.

Last year, South Carolina approved a gun tax holiday similar to the Louisiana measure. Rachel Parsons, a spokeswoman for the NRA, said a bill to create an Oklahoma gun tax holiday is pending in that state's Legislature.

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richard.fausset@latimes.com

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