Second Amendment Foundation to challenge legality of Seattle gun and ammunition tax

The Bellevue, Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) has vowed to challenge the legality of a gun and ammunition tax passed unanimously this week by the Seattle City Council.

Under the new ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016, gun shop owners will be required to pay a $25 per firearm tax; a $0.02 cent ammunition tax on .22 caliber bullets; and a $0.05 cent tax on all other caliber rounds. The city’s budget office estimates the tax could generate up to $500,000 per year in revenue, earmarked for gun violence research and prevention efforts.

The council also approved a related ordinance that requires gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours. Those who fail to do so face a $500 fine. Both ordinances have been sent to Mayor Ed Murray and await his signature.

“We’re going to challenge the legality of the ordinances once the mayor signs the legislation, which we consider a foregone conclusion," Phil Watson, director of special projects for the SAF, told the American Media Institute. "The ordinances violate the state’s preemption statute; we’ll sue on those grounds and ask for an injunction.”

Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess said the ordinances are legal.

“This is not about [gun] possession; it’s not about not regulation," Burgess said. "This is a matter of the taxing authority, granted for use by the Washington Constitution and the state legislature. This is another example of Seattle attempting to improve gun safety and lower the incidence of gun violence.”

“It’s nothing but a poll tax,” Watson said. “Not only are they [city council] trying to run gun shop owners out of the city, it’s an election year as well and they’re going after something they can campaign on, it’s politics for them, they don’t really care.”

Telephone calls and emails from the American Media Institute to several Seattle gun stores and pawn shops went unanswered. However, one gun store owner in neighboring Bellevue, who asked to remain anonymous, said the only way Seattle gun stores can stay in business would be to pass the taxes to customers.

“Profit margins are thin in the gun business,” the source said. “On average I make from five to fifteen percent on a gun sale.” The gun store owner explained if prices go up in Seattle, buyers will simply buy their weapons and ammunition elsewhere. “If this [tax] happened to me I’d be looking to move to another location.”

Lars Dalseide, public affairs media liaison with the National Rifle Association (NRA), agrees the ordinances are illegal but said the real tragedy is that low-income gun owners will suffer most.

“They’re making it harder for them to defend themselves,” Dalseide said. “The average response time to a home break-in in Seattle is one to three hours.”

Dalseide added the ordinances will do nothing to deter crime or lower murder rates.

“A similar tax was passed in Chicago, in 2012,” Dalseide said. “And look at the numbers right now, their murder rates are up 17 percent over last year."