Connecting state and local government leaders
Gun-rights activists have previously said that they’re ready for a court challenge.
SEATTLE — Members of the Seattle City Council on Monday afternoon unanimously approved a controversial proposal that would tax gun and ammunition sales inside the city limits, a plan that opponents have decried as illegal, unfair to law-abiding gun owners and ripe for a challenge in the courts.
“The only purpose is to run gun stores out of the city,” gun shop owner Sergey Solyanik said during public comments before the vote during the council’s session at City Hall.
The proposal, introduced by Council President Tim Burgess, would add a $25 tax for every firearm sold and a 5-cent-per-bullet tax on most types of ammunition. A companion bill that also passed on a unanimous vote would require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to the Seattle Police Department within 24 hours.
“A gun violence tax will give us revenue to provide broad-based benefits through research and prevention programs,” Burgess said in a statement released following the council votes. “Mandatory reporting provides the police information critical to investigations. I’m grateful for my colleagues’ full support for both of these measures.”
During the meeting, Councilmember Sally Bagshaw cited the lack of legislative action on the federal level as a primary reason why municipalities like Seattle need to take their own action. “We cannot rely on our federal government to do what’s right here.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has previously voiced his support for the proposal.
“We know the people of Seattle demand action on this issue, not more talk. Last year at the ballot box, voters approved greater accountability in background checks for gun sales,” Murray said in a July statement. “This proposal builds on that momentum by funding more tools to reduce the devastating impacts that guns have on our community.”
Before the council vote, Burgess joined members of Grandmothers Against Gun Violence for a 2.5 mile walk to City Hall.
The new gun measures in Seattle would help “the police trace guns used in crimes, it will help the police return guns to their rightful owners [and] perhaps most importantly, it will prevent gun owners from being falsely implicated in crimes,” Burgess said in an interview last month.
As Route Fifty reported last month, gun rights activists have been preparing for a legal challenge should the taxing proposal becomes law.
“We've already sued the city of Seattle in the past,” Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation told Route Fifty. “We'll just do it again. They make it easy for us.”
Two years ago, Seattle became the first city in the nation to conduct research on gun safety and the impacts of gun violence. In 2014, there were $17 million in direct costs due to gunshot wounds in the city. Seventy percent of those costs, roughly $12 million, were covered by Seattle taxpayers, according to a council backgrounder on gun safety.
“We obviously tax cigarettes, we tax alcohol,” Zach Silk, a strategic adviser for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility told Route Fifty last month. “As a society we recognize that products have harms associated with them . . . We know that guns are a product that do cause harm.”
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.