Seattle officials have ruled that a so-called “gun violence tax” – a surcharge added to legally purchased guns – does not exceed the city’s lawful taxing authority, and is not an attempt at gun control. The King County Superior Court heard arguments presented by owners of two gun shops, as well as the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation.
Reports The Associated Press on Dec. 23: “The measure — one of only a couple of its kind in the nation — adds $25 to the price of each firearm sold in the city, plus 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition, depending on the type. Officials expect it to raise up to $500,000 a year to help offset the costs of gun violence. The measure is set to take effect next month.”
In August, the city council adopted the tax with a unanimous 8-0 vote. The legislation also makes it mandatory for gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within a 24-hour period.
“The NRA and its allies always oppose these commonsense steps to shine light on the gun violence epidemic,” commented City Council President Tim Burgess, according to Seattle’s KIRO7 News. Burgess sponsored the law. “The judge saw through the NRA’s distorted efforts to put gun industry profits ahead of public safety.”
The NRA has not responded to the ruling, but the Second Amendment Foundation said they plan to appeal the decision. Only one other city besides Seattle has such a gun violence tax – Cook County Illinois, which includes the city of Chicago, enacted a similar $25 surcharge on firearms back in 2013. Gun violence and homicides increased in the years that followed.
“It is unconscionable for Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council to codify what amounts to social bigotry against firearms retailers and their customers,” Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said.
The revenues from the Seattle tax are expected to fund “gun safety research and gun violence prevention programs,” the AP report states. According to the King County government website, between 2009 and 2013, 472 residents were hospitalized for nonfatal gun injuries, while 3,038 residents died from a gun injury. During the 2013-2014 school year, Washington school districts reported 91 incidents involving a gun on school premises, or on the school’s bus systems.
“Guns now kill more people in the United States than automobiles,” Mayor Ed Murray said in November. “Our community will not stand by as so many in our city, particularly young people of color, continue to pay the highest price for inaction on gun violence at the national and state level. For too long, we have had insufficient research and data on gun violence to help guide our response. We will now have critical funding to advance our work on gun violence research and prevention.”
The Seattle gun violence tax is set to go into effect January 1st.