Seattle gun tax update: Sales way down, shootings way up

Do you happen to recall this story out of Washington state that we covered here last year? It dealt with a steep tax on firearms and ammunition levied in Seattle, ostensibly intended to fund research into the effects of gun violence. It went into effect in 2016, receiving great applause from gun grabbing groups around the nation. But after nearly a year of being in place, the city was refusing to release any figures on how much money the tax had brought in nor what impact, if any, it was having on gun violence.

More time has passed and the city’s elected officials still aren’t in the mood to discuss it, but as Fox News reports this week, some of the results are impossible to hide. Gun and ammunition sales inside the city have plummeted and the rate of shootings is heading in the wrong direction.

Comparing the first five months of 2017 with the same period before the gun tax went into effect, reports of shots fired are up 13 percent, the number of people injured in shootings climbed 37 percent and gun deaths doubled, according to crime statistics from the Seattle Police Department…

Seattle officials refuse to say how much the tax brought in the first year, only giving the number “under $200,000.” Gun rights groups have sued to get the exact amount.

But Mike Coombs, owner of Outdoor Emporium, the last large gun dealer left in Seattle, said the actual tax revenue is almost certainly just over $100,000, a figure based on information he says the city shared with his lawyers.

Coombs said storewide, sales are down 20 percent while gun sales have plummeted 60 percent.

You’ll recall that the city officials who pushed this tax through estimated that it would bring in somewhere between $300K and a half million per year. The only significant gun dealer left in the city knows how much he’s paid in and it’s barely 20% of the city council’s more sunny estimates. Why would this surprise anyone? Local media outlets have interviewed a number of former Seattle shop owners who either closed down entirely or moved outside the city limits. (Where, they say, sales are booming… pardon the pun.)

I’m not entirely sure what the angle is on the spike in shootings. I get that the talking point put forward there by the Democrats was that by “studying gun violence” they could probably reduce it, but let’s be honest… nobody was buying that to begin with. Having shooting numbers stay the same would have been the expected result, but if they’re seeing an increase it’s hard to lay that off on the tax. There must be some other factors involved.

In any event, municipal revenue is down, businesses have closed or seen reduced profits and people have lost their jobs. The money which was supposed to fund the gun violence study wound up coming out of the city’s general fund, which is a nicer way of saying it was lifted from all the taxpayers. No matter how you slice it, this gun tax has been a failure in basically every way you could measure it. Well… in every way but one, that is. The city is now basically down to a single remaining gun store, and that was no doubt one of the objectives of the tax bill’s authors. They’re close to achieving the same results as San Francisco, so I’m sure some of them are celebrating in private.

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