Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Proposed Seattle Gun Tax is Bad Policy and Bad Law

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Proposed Seattle Gun Tax is Bad Policy and Bad Law

Counter to Washington state law, Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess has announced plans for a local ordinance that would impose new taxes on firearms and ammunition sold within city limits.  The proposal lays out a $25 tax on firearms and $.05 for every round of ammunition sold. The city council’s Education and Governance Committee is set to take up the legislation on July 15.

Burgess' proposal is similar to a 2012 measure put forth in Illinois by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and is bad policy for the same reasons NRA-ILA outlined at that time.

Local gun control activist Zach Silk, with the Washington Alliance for Gun Safety, said of Burgess’ proposal, “We often attach taxes to things that cause harm to our communities and we know that guns are causing harm.” City Attorney Pete Holmes has also backed the law, stating, “Governments tax cars and gasoline to build safe roads. It only makes sense to tax the source of gun violence — guns and ammunition — to address their impact on public health and safety.”

However, a $25 tax on firearms purchased within the city only punishes the law-abiding, or in other words, those who are not “causing harm” or having an “impact on public health and safety” through the misuse of firearms. A Department of Justice survey of state and federal inmates found that only a small fraction of them acquired firearms through the type of retail sale that would be subject to Burgess’ tax. The overwhelming majority of offenders obtained guns through “friends or family” or a “street/illegal source.”

Law-abiding gun owners will also bear the brunt of the $.05 ammunition tax, while criminals will be largely unaffected. Whereas sports shooters and those that train for self-defense often use hundreds of rounds of ammunition during a range trip or plinking session, the evidence suggests criminals use very little ammunition. A 2003 study published in Injury Prevention that looked at firearm assaults in Jersey City, N.J. found that criminals fired an average of 3.2 to 3.7 rounds per violent attack.

Additionally, just like the Cook County proposal, Burgess’ tax is a regressive attack on the city’s poor in a city that prides itself on being a bastion of progressivism. City residents wealthy enough to have convenient access to transportation will just cross city lines in order to purchase firearms and ammunition. Those of lesser means, who might be restricted to public transportation, will be less able to avoid the tax.

Though similar in content, Burgess’ tax proposal is even more deplorable than Preckwinkle’s, as it is in direct conflict with Washington’s preemption statute. Section 9.41.290 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) makes clear:

The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components.

Washington’s preemption statute does include a narrow exception, which allows for local governments to enact ordinances of the type expressly outlined in RCW 9.41.300. Pertaining to firearm sales, local governments may only enact “ordinances restricting the areas in their respective jurisdictions in which firearms may be sold, but… a business selling firearms may not be treated more restrictively than other businesses located within the same zone.” or, measures that “restrict the location of a business selling firearms to not less than five hundred feet from primary or secondary school grounds, if the business has a storefront, has hours during which it is open for business, and posts advertisements or signs observable to passersby that firearms are available for sale.” 

Further, this matter is settled law. An October 13, 2008 opinion from the Washington State Attorney General, answering a lawmaker’s question regarding the legitimacy of local restrictions on the Right-to-Carry, noted, “a city’s authority to adopt firearms laws or regulations of application to the general public, unless specifically authorized by state law.”   Moreover, the Court of Appeals of Washington ruled in NRA’s favor in a 2011 lawsuit challenging the validity of a Seattle restriction on the Right-to-Carry in city parks. In their opinion, the court reiterated the plain meaning of the preemption statute, explaining that localities are restricted from restricting guns “Except as expressly authorized by the legislature.”

We don’t expect an anti-gun zealot like Burgess to be swayed by sound policy arguments, however, in light of statute and precedent, the city council president should reconsider this misguided attack on gun owners in order to avoid legal action. More generally, ill-informed city officials seeking to prove their anti-gun bona fides should make an effort to find ways to impress the anti-gun crowd that don’t involve the abuse of city taxpayers, who will be forced to foot the bill for the defense of their elected officials’ plainly unlawful vanity projects.

TRENDING NOW
Outrage of the Week: Shopify Targets America's Guns

News  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Outrage of the Week: Shopify Targets America's Guns

Hundreds of firearms retailers may have to close soon because a powerful Canadian tech company, Shopify, recently decided it was anti-gun and issued an ultimatum: Do business our way or not at all.

Divided Appeals Panel Upholds California Ban on Post-2013 Pistols

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Divided Appeals Panel Upholds California Ban on Post-2013 Pistols

Imagine if California, to combat what the legislature considered the serious problem of manmade global warming, required all new vehicles sold by car dealers in the state to run on grass clippings, rather than fossil ...

King County Unveils “Common Sense” Action Plan: Ban “Semi-automatic, High Velocity Weapons”

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

King County Unveils “Common Sense” Action Plan: Ban “Semi-automatic, High Velocity Weapons”

In a July 23rd op-ed, Joe McDermott, the Council Chair of King County, Washington, introduced a multi-prong “King County Gun Safety Action Plan” aimed at reducing gun violence.

NoFundMe: NRA Protest March Nets $70 in National Fundraising Effort

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

NoFundMe: NRA Protest March Nets $70 in National Fundraising Effort

Crowd funding is a relatively recent innovation that allows a person or cause to leverage the vast reach of the Internet to raise money for virtually every imaginable purpose. Even small donations of a few ...

Canada: Toronto Mayor Calls for Gun Bans, Ontario Premier Targets Criminals

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Canada: Toronto Mayor Calls for Gun Bans, Ontario Premier Targets Criminals

Canadian anti-gun politicians’ campaign to disarm law-abiding citizens continued this week. On Monday, the Canadian press reported on an August 3 letter from Toronto Mayor John Tory to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In the missive, Tory appeared to back ...

NRA Endorses Hyde-Smith for U.S. Senate

News  

Monday, August 13, 2018

NRA Endorses Hyde-Smith for U.S. Senate

FAIRFAX, Va. – The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) announced on Monday its endorsement of Cindy Hyde-Smith to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate. 

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Adventures in Correlation

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Adventures in Correlation

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut recently linked to a news article about a CDC report on homicides, claiming that “allowing more guns in more places isn’t making us safer. It’s doing the opposite.”

NRA Statement on 3-D Printers and Plastic Firearms

News  

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

NRA Statement on 3-D Printers and Plastic Firearms

FAIRFAX, Va.— Chris W. Cox, executive director, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, released the following statement on Tuesday:  

Federal Appeals Court Confirms Second Amendment Protects Right to Carry in Public

News  

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Federal Appeals Court Confirms Second Amendment Protects Right to Carry in Public

The NRA applauds a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that confirms the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a firearm outside the home for self-defense.

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.