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Could Joe Biden Tax the AR-15 to Death?

AR-15. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Perhaps President Joe Biden has another reason to push his gun control agenda. According to recent reports, the Biden administration’s push to regulate the popular AR platform of firearms could net the federal government billions of dollars in new tax revenue. At the same time, it could drive the smaller manufacturers out of business.

A newly proposed regulation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would treat semi-automatic firearms including the AR-15 much the way machine guns and “destructive devices” are now under the National Firearms Act of 1934. That was in essence the first federal piece of legislation that put any limits on what guns the average citizen could own.

There is a misconception that it “banned” ownership of machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled rifles/shotguns, and destructive devices like rocket launchers, but it actually just highly regulated them. All NFA items are subject to a mandatory transfer fee of $200. In addition, for NFA items would-be buyers need to go through an extensive background check that includes fingerprinting and can take up to a year – and sometimes even longer.

Under the new proposed regulation, which was reported by the Washington Examiner, owners would have to pay the $200 tax per weapon, radically change it (deactivation might be an option) or surrender the gun for destruction. Of course, the ATF doesn’t likely expect that many would actually “give up the guns,” so it could expect to net $200 per each firearm in private hands.

The ATF estimated that there are three to seven million ARs and similar firearms owned by American citizens, but other agencies have suggested the number is much higher – and could be as many as 40 million guns and other regulated parts. That could net the government $8 billion in transfer fees. However, estimates are still way off.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has already sought to change the classification of many popular semi-automatic rifles, including those that are popular hunting guns, to fall into the category of dangerous assault-style weapons.

If every gun fits into the loose definition of an “assault weapon” under the 1994 assault weapon ban (AWB) then the number could be in the hundreds of millions. Even a conservative 200 million semi-automatic rifles would bring in $40 billion as gun owners would have to pay the tax just to keep something they already own. While it certainly won’t balance the budget it could help pay for President Joe Biden’s expensive spending spree of infrastructure proposals he’s outlined.

The added tax would certainly increase the cost for any new ARs and other semi-automatic weapons that were sold – and given the cash cow this could be for the federal government, the only good news is that might stop any calls to ban the guns. However, it would most likely impact the market. The entry-level and lower-cost ARs, which are made by smaller companies, would be impacted and those manufacturers would be forced out of business – who would pay an extra $200 for a $600 or even $800 AR. At the same time, the prices of the higher quality ARs would just cost more and would in turn limit who could afford one.

Biden and other liberal lawmakers have talked about leveling the playing field in terms of income inequality, but this tax could price out the AR-15. Perhaps that is what the affluent Democrats have in mind.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.