A $25-per-gun, 5-cent-per-round tax imposed by the city of Seattle to prevent gun-related violence and raise revenue has failed at both goals. The revenue generated by the tax is significantly below lawmaker’s estimates, and gun-related violence has risen sharply since the law’s introduction.
The city initially declined to reveal how much revenue the tax had raised since 2015, but after media pressure in March, a city official sent an estimate to the Seattle Times. The Times published an excerpt of the email, which they had received from city councilman Tim Burgess, stating, “During its first year, the firearms and ammunition tax payments received by the City were less than $200,000.”
When Burgess initially proposed the legislation in August, 2015, the city predicted that the tax would generate $500,000 per year in revenue.
Despite requests by local media outlets, the city of Seattle has refused to release specific numbers on how much revenue was raised by the controversial tax.
Worse still, the city of Seattle has seen a significant spike in gun-related deaths. New data from the Seattle Police Department shows that shooting injuries have increased by 37 percent, and that gun-related deaths have doubled in Seattle since the bill went into effect. When Fox News published the numbers, the Seattle City Council refused to comment.
When the ordinance was proposed by Burgess in July, 2015, it passed the city council by unanimous vote. The proposal included nearly two full pages of statistics on gun-related violence, with the stated purpose of the tax to “provide broad-based public benefits for residents of Seattle related to gun violence by funding programs that promote public safety [and] prevent gun violence…” The ordinance specifically imposed a $25 per firearm tax, and an additional 2 to 5 cents per round of ammunition.
When the legislation passed, it was met with praise from gun-control advocates. Eleanor Clift, a writer at The Daily Beast, praised the tax in a piece titled “Want Fewer Murders? Tax Guns and Ammo.” She described the NRA as a gun lobby that “wholly owned” state legislatures, and argued that Seattle’s tax was just one part of a wave of “common-sense gun laws” she hoped were forthcoming.
But the National Rifle Association (NRA), Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) contested the ordinance in August, 2015. Their suit resulted in a ruling from Superior Court Judge Palmer Rubinson that upheld the ordinance as a “lawful exercise of Seattle’s taxing authority.”
But the fight is far from over. “We are confident that the appeals court will see this tax…as a form of gun control that is prohibited under Washington State’s 33-year old preemption statute,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of SAF, a plaintiff in the suit. He also condemned the ordinance as “social bigotry against firearms retailers and their customers,” and said it would lead to less revenue for the city as it would lead to more firearm purchases conducted outside city limits.
Dave Workman, a member of the Second Amendment Foundation, told Fox News he isn’t surprised that the tax failed to achieve both of its proposed goals.
“All these gun control laws affect the wrong people,” Workman said. “The gang bangers don’t go in and buy ammunition at retail, at least not around here. It certainly hasn’t stopped them from getting their hands on firearms.”