The Seattle City Council will soon vote on a city ordinance that could add an additional tax on guns and ammunition, a move that is heavily opposed by both firearm retailers and gun owners. Some, like Sergey Solyanik, say the new tax will drive him out of town.
“I feel outraged, actually, and not really as gun owner or gun dealer, but as a citizen of Seattle,” Solyanik, the owner of Precise Shooter, told KIRO 7.
The proposal came from Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess, who ostensibly introduced the ordinance as the latest in the city’s efforts to combat crime. The city ordinance calls for an additional $25 tax on each firearm sold in the city as well as a five cent tax on each individual round of ammunition. For .22 ammunition, which is generally less expensive, the tax will be two cents per round.
“We’ve been working on this for several years. Sure, I wish we would have done this 20 years ago, but we know what the problem is,” Burgess told KING 5. “We tax cigarettes and alcohol and even wood-burning stoves for public health purposes. Why not guns and ammunition?”
Supporting Burgess in the proposal is Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole.
“I want to thank Councilmember Burgess for his leadership. We know the people of Seattle demand action on this issue, not more talk,” said Mayor Ed Murray in a press release. “Last year at the ballot box, voters approved greater accountability in background checks for gun sales. This proposal builds on that momentum by funding more tools to reduce the devastating impacts that guns have on our community.”
Burgess estimated that the ordinance will raise anywhere from $300,000 to half a million dollars each year. However, unlike the Pittman-Robertson Excise Tax, which retains funds for conservation and habitat protection efforts, the funds collected by the ordinance will go entirely back into the city for “gun violence research and prevention programs.” City leaders have yet to specify details in how the funds will be spent.
Gun rights groups say that if the city passes the ordinance, it will be in violation of state law. Washington’s firearms preemption statute prohibits cities from regulating guns and the ordinance is expected to face legal challenges, although Burgess is confident that it will hold up in court.
“Taxpayers in Seattle pay for millions of dollars in emergency medical care every year for people who have been shot,” he said in a press release. “It’s time for the gun industry to chip in to help defray these costs.”
Organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) doubt the ordinance will have any positive effect on the city. Instead, advocates say that the bill will only serve to increase the price of firearms and ammunition, driving business away from the city.
“It will have no effect on decreasing gun violence,” NSSF stated. “It is designed to place a huge burden on legitimate firearms retailers and law-abiding gun owners. Additionally, the proposed ordinance is a gross violation of Washington’s firearms preemption statute.”
Some critics say that if firearm retailers move out of the city, Seattle could stand to lose more tax revenue than it will gain through the ordinance.
A companion bill would also require all Seattle residents to report a lost or stolen firearm with 24 hours or face a $500 fine.