Will Seattle's gun tax survive a court challenge?

Starting in January of this year it became increasingly expensive to purchase a gun or ammunition in the city of Seattle, Washington. The municipal government instituted a new tax of $25 on the sale of every weapon and anywhere from two to five cents for each round of ammunition. This obvious attempt at discouraging residents from exercising their Second Amendment rights and driving gun shops out of business was portrayed by city officials as a “public safety” initiative, with the funds raised being directed toward medical research of gunshot victims, including medical and behavioral interventions at a University of Washington medical center.


Can they do that? There’s a lawsuit underway to determine the answer to that question. (Route Fifty)

Gun-rights groups, led by the National Rifle Association, are challenging Seattle’s tax on “state preemption” grounds. They argue that the city has no right to regulate firearms, because gun regulation is under state purview.

City officials say they are not trying to “regulate” guns, but simply to tax them. City and local taxes are allowed under state law.

In their challenge, gun-rights advocates cite an earlier case, in which Seattle’s attempt to ban guns from playgrounds and other child-friendly parks was thrown out on state preemption grounds. In December, however, Judge Palmer Robinson of the King County Superior Court ruled in the city’s favor on the gun tax, calling it a “lawful exercise of Seattle’s taxing authority.” The NRA and others are appealing.

Sadly, I don’t see much prospect of success for this challenge. While the reasons for the tax are obvious and have nothing to do with safety, science or health, this still boils down to the city levying a tax on a product. No matter how politically charged the topic, taxing is something that cities can do, albeit with certain exceptions. The only way to stop them would seem to be some sort of supremacy based tactic where the state passes a law forbidding cities and towns from taxing specific products. The odds of that happening in Washington seem rather slim, though.


As to the goals of the tax, they are already taking effect. One of the few surviving gun stores in Seattle is already moving out of town. (Seattle Times)

Sergey Solyanik said Monday he’s close to signing a lease that will allow him to move Precise Shooter from Aurora Avenue North, near Green Lake, to Lynnwood…

Solyanik said he believes a state court of appeals will overturn Judge Palmer Robinson’s ruling. But he’s not waiting for that outcome before picking up stakes.

“Selling firearms is no longer feasible in Seattle, so we’re moving north,” he said.

Once the last gun shop has closed, there will be no revenue for the city to feed into any alleged medical studies, of course, but that doesn’t matter. This was never about education or safety in the first place and the objective will have been achieved.

It’s a tactic which liberals have used with great success in the past. Unable to win by fighting the Second Amendment, they come up with rafts of other requirements which simply make it unprofitable to operate a gun shop and wait for the economic sanctions to drive the business out of their city. The last gun shop in San Francisco closed last year after oppressive reporting requirements were put in place and it’s a pattern which is repeating in cities around the country. Of course, the closed shops take their jobs with them, leaving empty commercial real estate which no longer produces revenue for the city and the residents still purchase guns and ammo. They simply have to drive further to do it. But if it wins you a few more votes in the next election it was all worth it, right?



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