Failure: Seattle gun, ammo tax revenue falls for 3rd year, murders climb

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Seattle’s three-year-old special tax on firearms and ammunition has been a dismal failure on every front, according to one of three organizations that fought it, and making matters worse, while the tax has been in effect, murders in the Jet City have spiked upwards.

In a blistering statement, Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, ripped the tax and the city administration behind it.

Seattle’s gun tax revenue has declined for the third year in a row. (Dave Workman)

“The failure of this gun tax to accomplish anything good was as predictable as November rain in Seattle,” Gottlieb said.

SAF, along with the National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation, challenged the gun tax in state court. The liberal state Supreme Court upheld the tax, despite language in the state’s 35-year-old preemption law that should have prevented such a tax. Here’s what the law says:

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“The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”

In 2018, Seattle’s gun tax, which levies a $25 fee on the sale of every firearm and a 5-cent tax on each round of centerfire ammunition, brought in a dismal $77,518. That was down more than $15,700 from the 2017 revenue of $93,220.74, which was more than $10,000 below the $103,766.22 collected in 2016, the first year of the tax.

However, in 2015, when the tax was championed by then-Seattle Councilman Tim Burgess, he predicted it could bring in between $300,000 and $500,000 annually. That money would have been used for “gun violence research” and other projects aimed at reducing or preventing crime.

Many gun owners believe that the tax was actually adopted in an effort to drive firearms retailers out of the city. It did accomplish that much. One of the city’s two major gun dealerships left Seattle and went north to Lynnwood. The other now directs gun buyers to its “other” store several miles south, and in a different county. This largely accounts for the plummeting gun tax revenue, and if that’s what the proponents had in mind all along, then the gun tax was a gun control scheme.

In 2016, the first full year the tax was in effect, Seattle logged 18 homicides, which is a remarkable number for a city of its size and population. The following year, according to Seattle police crime data, there were 28 homicides in the city. Last year, the police reported 32 murders.

This is not to suggest that the gun tax is responsible for the spike in murders, but it does show that a gun control scheme that has essentially driven business out of the city, has done nothing to reduce violence, and it didn’t prevent the murder rate from nearly doubling in the three years of its existence.

“Seattle residents were promised pie-in-the-sky,” Gottlieb observed, “and so far, they haven’t even gotten a decent crust. We fought this gun tax in court because we felt, and still do, that it violates the state preemption law. We were also convinced, and remain so today, that the revenue predictions were deceptive, if not downright delusional.”

He suggested in a news release that the gun tax be repealed and that it should be allowed to “fade into the dust bin of municipal history.”

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