The Seattle City Council voted unanimously on Monday to levy what lawmakers are calling a “gun violence tax” on ammunition and firearms sales. Seattle, Wash. lawmakers also approved a bill that would penalize individuals who fail to report lost or stolen firearms with up to a $500 fine. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray reportedly supports both bills.
According to The Seattle Times, the measure, which was introduced by City Council President Tim Burgess, would apply a $25 tax on firearms sales, a 5 cents-per-round tax on most types of ammunition, and a 2 cents-per-round tax on ammunition at or below .22 caliber.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement on the tax proposal, “The unanimous Council vote on this ordinance demonstrates the commitment of this City and this community to lead on the ongoing national epidemic of gun violence. While action at the federal level and in many other jurisdictions remains gridlocked, we are moving ahead to address an issue so damaging to the young people of Seattle, especially young people of color.”
KOMO-TV notes that city officials estimate that the tax will bring in between $300,000 to $500,000, which would be spent on gun safety and gun violence prevention programs. Lawmakers plan to implement the program on January 1, 2016.
However, Washington state law bans municipalities from regulating firearms, and gun rights groups are expected to sue to block the legislation. A Seattle law banning guns in parks was overturned in 2010 after pro-gun organizations filed suit. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has argued that the tax is authorized under the city’s taxing authority.
Second Amendment Foundation co-founder Alan Gottlieb called the proposal “dead on arrival” and said, “The courts aren’t going to buy it. This is not authorized by state law, and therefore it’s not going to hold up.”
Some gun shop owners believe the tax is a covert attempt at driving them out of the city. Sergey Solyanik, who owns the Seattle-area gun shop Precise Shooter, said, “I would have almost no margins, so I would pass the tax on to my customers and most people would simply not buy from me. They would go to any of the stores around Seattle — there are a large number — and I would have to close.” He also pointed out the facts that guns and ammunition would still be available tax-free just outside of the city and that city officials’ tax revenue estimates are not factoring in the possibility that buyers will shift their purchases away from stores within city limits to evade the tax.
City Council President Tim Burgess said that he has been inundated with emails about the proposal. “The reaction has been mixed. We’re getting a ton of emails arriving from outside Seattle and across the country in opposition. But we’re getting emails of support, as well,” he said.