A King County Superior Court judge late this afternoon denied a request for summary judgment against the City of Seattle’s so-called “gun violence tax,” but the Second Amendment Foundation issued a statement declaring it will appeal.
SAF was joined in the lawsuit by the National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, two local gun stores and two private citizens. They are fighting the city’s so-called “gun violence tax” of $25 per firearm and five cents per cartridge, which their attorneys contend is a violation of state law that puts sole authority over firearm regulation in the hands of the State Legislature.
The plaintiffs also challenged the legality of the tax under state tax law. Judge Palmer Robinson noted that the city “must have authority to impose a tax before it can impose and collect it.” The ruling suggests that the judge did not see this tax as a regulation, only as a mechanism for financing “public education and research.” Critics argue that this is gun control by another label.
“We are disappointed and strongly disagree with Judge Palmer Robinson’s ruling, and we are confident that the State Court of Appeals will ultimately concur with our position,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. “SAF and NRA are very familiar with the state preemption statute because we teamed up once before against Seattle and beat the city soundly four years ago.
Judge Robinson’s denial of the summary judgment motion seems to concentrate on the tax far more than the alleged violation of state preemption. The city earlier lost a lawsuit filed by SAF and NRA on the basis that it violated the state’s 32-year-old preemption statute.
On the subject of preemption, the judge wrote: “At oral argument, the city argued that, even if the ordinance is a regulation it does not run afoul of (state law) because it does not impose any criminal penalty in the event of a violation. However, the ordinance provides that violation is a gross misdemeanor…The city’s argument fails on this point.”
Under specific language in the state’s preemption statute, all firearms regulation – including “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” – falls entirely under the legislature’s authority, SAF said in a statement to the press.
“Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality,” the statute says.
“This tax is a violation not only of state preemption but also the state tax laws,” he added. “It is unconscionable for Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council to codify what amounts to social bigotry against firearms retailers and their customers, and we are going to fight this vigorously in defense of a state preemption law that has served Washington citizens well for more than three decades.”
City Council President Tim Burgess, sponsor of the legislation, said in a prepared statement, “We established the gun violence tax as a legitimate and appropriate way to raise revenue for gun safety research and prevention programs,” according to KIRO.
“The NRA and its allies always oppose these common sense steps to shine light on the gun violence epidemic,” he asserted. “They have blocked funding for basic gun safety research at the federal level for decades. But in Seattle it is different. Judge Robinson saw through the NRA’s distorted efforts to put gun industry profits ahead of public safety.”
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