by Elizabeth Troutman
The Goldwater Institute is challenging an Arizona Court of Appeals ruling that shooting ranges qualify as “places of amusement,” subjecting them to higher tax rates.
The court ruled in April that shooting ranges are “comparable” to “amusement parks.” The Goldwater Institute filed a friend of the court brief last week, arguing that shooting ranges are not circuses but places where people can go to learn a new skill and practice self-defense.
Timothy Sandefur, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute, said it was important to clarify the distinction between amusement parks and shooting ranges because Arizona legislators amended tax law to remove “places of instruction” from the tax and replace it with “places of entertainment” about 30 years ago.
“In doing so, they created an exemption for businesses such as aerobics studios or martial arts dojos, because these are places where people go to learn and practice their skills – which is different from places such as carnivals, circuses, or fairs, which is what the tax was intended to apply to,” Sandefur said in a statement.
Sandefur said the Arizona Court of Appeals maintains a policy of strictly interpreting laws. He believes the court’s decision that a shooting range “offers the same type or nature of activity as those provided by the businesses specifically [listed] in [the tax law]” was a broad interpretation.
The businesses listed in the tax law include “races, contests, games, billiard or pool parlors, bowling alleys, public dances, dance halls,” which Sandefur holds differ from a shooting range, “where people receive training, instruction, and supervision at all stages and are there to learn and practice their self-defense skills.”
Sandefur said the lower court’s decision not only was an overreach of power “beyond what the people’s elected representatives authorized,” but additionally “intruded on the individual’s right to practice self-defense.” When taxes increase, so do prices, Sandefur said, making consumption harder for Arizonans.
“We urge the state’s high court to review the case and ensure that the taxing power remains within its limits,” he said.
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Elizabeth Troutman contributes to The Center Square.