Seattle’s Gun Regulation Disguised As A “Tax”

"The gun tax, an obvious form of regulation, is failing. This comes as no surprise to gun-rights groups who understand the facts—gun regulation only takes away guns from good people."

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In 2015, Seattle passed a gun tax on all gun purchases and ammunition. Seattle City Councilman Tim Burgess introduced this tax that adds $25 to every firearm sold in the city and upwards of 5 cents per round of ammunition.

The tax was put into effect Jan. 1, 2016, though not without dispute. The NRA quickly filed a lawsuit claiming that the city has no right to regulate firearms, because regulation is under state purview. Under state law, however, the city is allowed to tax guns, and the city officials claim regulation is not their intention. A King County Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the tax claiming it as a “lawful exercise of Seattle’s taxing authority.”

Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence claims, “Seattle has every right to tax products that are causing public safety/public health issues in its jurisdiction. The medical and legal costs associated with gun violence are astronomical and I don’t see any foul play in asking gun buyers to help bear some of the costs alongside taxpayers who choose not to own guns.” In other words, the tax forces law-abiding gun owners to par for the costs caused by criminals committing crimes with guns.

Gun rights groups were not convinced. “What they are trying to do is get gun stores out of the city,” says a local gun-store owner. An attorney representing a gun-rights group stated “there is no way in the world that this so-called tax is in fact a tax…it is a straight up piece of regulation that is designed to inhibit the merchant sales and use of firearms in the city of Seattle.”

The local gun shops do not see this as a tax either and swear the city is only interested in regulating the sales of guns and trying to force these sales out of the city. Unfortunately, it is working. Mike Coombs owns the largest gun dealer left in the city, Outdoor Emporium, said that his gun sales alone have dropped a whopping 60 percent. Another gun dealer left before his business could fail and moved his shop to a nearby city, Lynnwood.

Researchers have reported that, when compared with data from before the tax was introduced, the first five months of 2017 have seen reports of shots fired up 13 percent, a doubling of gun deaths, and a 37 percent increase in the number of people injured in shootings, according to the Seattle Police Department.

Supposedly, the tax is to bring in between $300,000 and $500,000 annually for research into health issues related to gun violence. Seattle officials state that in the first year the tax brought in “under $200,000”, refusing to give the exact number. However, based on information shared from the city with the lawyers of the gun-rights group the actual tax revenue is said to be just over $100,000.

The gun tax, an obvious form of regulation, is failing. This comes as no surprise to gun-rights groups who understand the facts—gun regulation only takes away guns from good people. The money it was supposed to bring in for “research” is way below the promised amount, gunshot victims are still in hospitals, and the costs of gun violence have risen.

Because of the lawsuit, the city is in over the tax, the little revenue it has generated is in a holding account. However, the city took money from the general fund to support the research study. They paid a total of $550,000 of the taxpayer’s money to support this research that proves the tax is not working. Dave Workman, another gun shop owner, claims, “All these gun control laws affect the wrong people. The gangbangers don’t go in and buy ammunition at retail, at least not around here. It’s certainty hasn’t stopped them from getting their hands on firearms. “The city council should have predicted the results of this tax: gun dealer leaving the city, no decrease in gun ownership, and no measurable prevention of actual gun violence.

Mike Coombs said that if the city is really trying to prevent gun violence, he is more than willing to work with officials to alter the target of the tax, like using its revenues to provide gun safes and lock boxes or gun safety courses. But the city has shown no interest in working together with anyone who is pro-Second Amendment. Defeating this tax will help prevent more cities from implementing such a tax.