A King County Superior Court judge will hand down a ruling by Tuesday afternoon on the legality of Seattle’s special gun tax following Friday’s hearing that saw the city’s pro bono attorney argue that Washington State’s 32-year-old firearms preemption statute does not apply to this type of gun regulation.
However, Judge Palmer Robinson also heard from the attorney representing the National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation and National Shooting Sports Foundation explain otherwise. Attorney Steve Fogg also observed that, “What this is, your honor, is the latest skirmish in what has been a long-running battle between the state and the city for control of the field of firearms.”
Fogg is right about that. The city under at least the past couple of anti-gun administrations has looked for a way around preemption, passed originally in 1983, and has also wanted to amend it to allow Seattle off the legal hook. That feeling intensified after Seattle was soundly drubbed the last time it challenged preemption.
At that time it faced off against SAF, NRA, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Washington Arms Collectors and several private citizens. It lost at the trial court level — in King County Superior Court —and unanimously at the Court of Appeals. The state Supreme Court declined the city’s request for review.
On Friday, defense attorney William Abrams complained that the NRA has “stymied and blocked research into gun violence” for two decades. He insisted that the gun tax is aimed at funding such research.
City Council President Tim Burgess, who spearheaded the tax, was in the courtroom and later told the Seattle Times that, “This has nothing to do with gun control.” Except that it does, if one subscribes to the state statute, which covers the sale of firearms, as well as other regulations. This special tax is on the sale of a firearm. KOMO reported that Burgess eyes the gun tax as a way “to raise revenue to help offset the cost of gun violence in our city.” But how does research offset such a cost?
Fogg, as noted by the newspaper account of yesterday’s hearing, alluded to an email from last March from Stephanie Ervin, deputy campaign manager for the anti-gun Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, to Nick Licata, who just left office on the city council after serving 18 years.
The email said, “We’re putting together a group to brainstorm opportunities at the local level to work around pre-emption as it relates to gun laws. Let’s get creative about how to curtail gun irresponsibility.”
More than 215 reader comments have been posted to the Seattle Times in reaction to the hearing. Some oppose the tax, others support it. It’s a sure thing that whichever way the judge rules, somebody is going to be disappointed.
Got an opinion about this column? Share your views in the “Comments” section below.