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Noem invites California-based gun manufacturers to SD to escape new taxes

By: - September 28, 2023 3:12 pm
(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Gov. Kristi Noem is inviting California-based gun manufacturers to move their operations to South Dakota in response to California’s new tax on guns and ammunition.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed nearly two dozen gun control measures into law on Tuesday, including a ban on carrying firearms in most public places and an 11% state tax on gun and ammunition sales, making California the first to impose a state tax of that kind on top of the existing 11% federal tax. 

Revenue from the federal tax goes toward wildlife conservation and hunter education programs. Revenue from the new state tax will pay for school security improvements and gun violence prevention programs. The new tax goes into effect next July and is expected to be challenged in court.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there were nearly 75 active firearm manufacturing facilities in California in 2021, the most recent year of available data. There were 20 firearm manufacturing facilities in South Dakota.

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Gun manufacturers say they wonder if California’s laws and regulations are meant to push them out, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

“Recently, I’ll be honest with you, we felt like this business in California has an expiration date,” said Rifle Supply owner John Koukios.

Noem echoed that sentiment.

“Why would anyone want to live in a state where your Second Amendment rights are infringed?” she said in a news release.

She said the first bill she signed into law as governor guaranteed constitutional carry for South Dakotans — the right to carry a firearm without a permit. For those who still want a concealed carry permit (which is valid in some other states that require one), South Dakota was the first state to do away with the fees. Noem also celebrated the state’s “Stand Your Ground” laws, which protect the right to claim self-defense in a shooting but have also had unintended consequences, according to some prosecutors.

Noem added that South Dakota’s firearms industry has an economic impact of over $400 million, referencing the success of gun accessory manufacturers Silencer Central, based in Sioux Falls, and Cole-TAC, based in the Black Hills. 

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Noem did not mention that South Dakota has a higher firearm mortality rate than California. In 2021, the most recent year of available data from the Centers for Disease Control, South Dakota had a firearm mortality rate of 14.3 out of 100,000 residents — or 128 deaths. California’s firearm death rate was 9 per 100,000 residents — 3,576 deaths. 

Of the 240 violent deaths in South Dakota in 2020, nearly half were caused by firearms, according to the 2020 state Department of Health violent death report (the most recent report available). Of the 180 suicides that year — which accounted for 75% of the total violent deaths — nearly half were caused by firearms. Two gun control bills failed during the 2023 legislative session.

Newsom acknowledged that many of the gun control laws he signed on Tuesday might not survive legal challenges based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent interpretations of the Second Amendment.


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Makenzie Huber
Makenzie Huber

Makenzie Huber is a lifelong South Dakotan whose work has won national and regional awards. She's spent five years as a journalist with experience reporting on workforce, development and business issues within the state.