CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Department of Revenue has suspended sales tax collections from gun shows because of increasing animosity toward the state's field tax agents.
Dan Noble, director of the department's excise tax division, said Friday that an incident at a gun show triggered the decision.
He added, however, that resistance from gun show sponsors and participants has been a recurring problem statewide.
"I have 10 field reps throughout the state, and every one of them has experienced some animosity," he said. "Folks are nervous anyway because there are guns there. I don't want to put my people at risk."
Guns shows, like craft shows, are required to set up temporary sales tax licenses but do not have to pay the $60 fee for a permanent sales tax license.
The department's field tax representatives attend the shows and ask the sponsors to distribute tax forms to the sellers who, in turn, are required to collect and remit sales tax to the Department of Revenue.
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Noble said the tax agents have never had a problem with compliance from the craft shows, for example.
"We tend to have more trouble at gun shows than any place," Noble said Friday in an interview. "This last incident was something I felt kind of crossed the line and, because of it I have suspended our activity in trying to collect this until we can get a better way of approaching it."
He said the "climate" has changed and some of the gun show people are "fairly extreme."
Noble said he didn't want to identify the show where the incident took place because the problem has been statewide.
Anthony Bouchard, executive director of the Wyoming Gun Owners' Association, said the only confrontation he knew of was at a gun show in Pine Bluffs. The gun show participant involved was an "in your face" type, he said, adding that he did not believe there was any threat made.
"I think they're trying to create a political climate, to make it sound like a bigger thing than it is," he said.
The position of his group, Bouchard said, is that the state shouldn't charge sales tax on gun and ammunition sales because of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
"Everybody's on edge," said John Wise, director of the Pine Bluffs Shooting Association and of the gun show.
Identifying himself as a "tea partier and damned proud of it," Wise said Friday that people are angry at the federal government over health care reform and other actions.
Wise said he was sitting at the front desk during the April gun show at Pine Bluffs when a participant got into a confrontation with a state sales tax representative. The tax agent called for backup from the Pine Bluffs Police Department.
Wise said the police officer intervened, the tax agent left and no charges were filed. He said he thought both men had "short fuses."
Wise said that individual gun owners who pay $30 to rent a table at a gun show so they can sell a couple of guns should not have to collect sales tax for the state.
Bouchard said he will personally work on legislation to exempt gun show sales from the state's sales tax.
Noble said he plans to contact local representatives of the National Rifle Association to see if they have any recommendation to avoid these problems. Since other states are having the same problem, Noble said he will contact them as well.
"The last thing in the world I want to do is to involve law enforcement in something like this," he said. "If that's what it takes, I guess we do it. I would rather wait and see if we have opportunity to work with people so it's not threatening to my employees."
Noble informed members of the Legislature's Joint Interim Revenue Committee Thursday of his decision because at some point legislation may be necessary, he said.
Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 307-632-1244.