Seattle Gun Tax Fails to Generate Projected Revenue, Succeeds in Burdening Rights

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Seattle gun and ammo tax a huge failure! Read on…

Source NRA-ILA

tax burdenOn March 16, 2017, the Seattle Times reported that Seattle city officials were reluctant to release data on the revenue generated by the city’s firearms and ammunition tax, citing taxpayer confidentiality concerns. Less than a week later, we now know the more likely reason that Seattle failed to disclose this tax revenue: because the money raised fell woefully short of the figure projected by supporters of the tax.

In July 2015, Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess proposed legislation he dubbed a “Gun Violence Tax,” contending that “It’s time for the gun industry to help defray” the cost of criminal violence perpetrated with guns. Burgess’s proposal was unanimously passed by the city council on August 10, 2015. The legislation imposed a $25 tax on firearm sales, a $.02 per round tax on .22 and smaller-caliber ammunition, and a $.05 per round tax on ammunition greater than .22 caliber. The revenue was intended to be used to fund anti-gun research at the Harborview Medical Center.

On August 24, 2015, NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Second Amendment Foundation filed suit in King County Superior Court to prevent the city from enforcing the new tax. NRA’s complaint pointed out that the tax violates the Second Amendment and is also impermissible under Washington state law.

The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that governments are not permitted to attack constitutionally-protected conduct through taxation. In the First Amendment context, the Court struck down a Minnesota use tax on ink and paper used in publishing. In that case — Minneapolis Star Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue — the Court warned that, “A power to tax differentially, as opposed to a power to tax generally, gives a government a powerful weapon against the taxpayer selected.”

Washington’s firearms preemption statute also bars Seattle’s tax. Section 9.41.290 of the Revised Code of Washington states,

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 reloading components.

And, 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.

Washington law does provide a small number of specific exemptions to the state firearm preemption statute, but these concern local zoning in relating to firearms dealers, carry in certain municipal buildings, and the discharge of firearms.

Despite the plain language of Washington’s preemption statute, in December 2015 King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson upheld Seattle’s tax. NRA and our allies have appealed the court’s decision, and the case now sits with the Washington State Supreme Court.

In advocating for the tax, Burgess and other supporters of the legislation repeatedly cited figures from the City Budget Office that claimed the tax would raise between $300,000 and $500,000 a year. In an email to the Times this week, Burgess confessed, “During its first year, the firearms and ammunition tax payments received by the City were less than $200,000.” It is not clear how much less than $200,000 the city collected.

According to the Times, to come up with the outlandish $300,000-$500,000 figure, the City Budget Office “obtained the annual number of background checks for gun sales in Washington. Then they looked up what percentage of Washington’s licensed gun dealers were in Seattle and used that to guess the number of firearms sales in the city.” In addition to the fact that its analysis was too rudimentary to offer an accurate estimate of gun sales in Seattle, the budget office appears to have made no attempt to predict the impact the significant tax would have on the behavior of gun dealers and buyers.

Making this projection appear even more ridiculous is that the 2016 tax shortfall occurred in a year that witnessed record gun sales nationally and in the Evergreen State. In 2016, there were 713,996 NICS background checks conducted in Washington, whereas the 2015 total was 502,280. Washingtonians were buying plenty of guns in 2016, but as many predicted when the tax was proposed, not in Seattle.

The inaccuracy of City Budget Office’s projections was readily apparent to gun dealers at the time the tax was enacted. Shortly after Burgess proposed the tax, Seattle gun store owner Sergey Solyanik told the Times that he didn’t think the city’s projected revenue was realistic. Solyanik explained that should the tax pass, “I would have almost no margins, so I would pass the tax on to my customers and most people would simply not buy from me… They would go to any of the stores around Seattle — there are a large number — and I would have to close.” Another gun dealer told the Times, “The public won’t buy ammunition in Seattle anymore… When a $10 or $15 box of ammunition costs an extra five bucks, it won’t be worth it.”

In addition to speaking to the press, Solyanik took his concerns about the tax and the foolish revenue projection directly to the city council. On July 15, 2015, Solyanik told the council, “I was horrified when I see the numbers behind this proposal. Seattle is a city that has a vibrant engineering community. We would think that we would be making decisions such as this based on data. And the data that has been submitted by the proponents is completely fake.” Speaking to the council again on the day that it passed the tax, Solyanik warned, “The revenue numbers in this proposal are not real. The city is not going to get any money from this tax. The city instead will lose tax revenue on existing sales.” Solyanik went on to add, “The only real purpose of this legislation is to run gun stores out of the city. I know it, you know it, and the courts will know it.”

In that effort, the city succeeded. Solyanik moved his store outside the city to avoid the tax. According to the Times, the only other dedicated gun store in Seattle has also left. Any honest accounting of the revenue collected from the tax should account for the lost revenue from these stores, and the others whose business has been curtailed by Seattle’s restriction.

Seattle’s high-profile failure has put every other anti-gun locality on notice that this type of taxation scheme is ineffective for raising revenue. Seattle’s embarrassment should make it harder for other localities to hide behind the false claim that these sorts of tax regimes are intended to raise revenue, rather than burden Second Amendment rights.

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8 thoughts on “Seattle Gun Tax Fails to Generate Projected Revenue, Succeeds in Burdening Rights”

  1. Liberalism is a mental disorder. Liberals blame things, instead of people. Liberals cite “Big Tobacco” and “Big Oil” as threats to society, when in fact “Big Government” is a far greater menace, as proven time and again throughout world history. Liberals fear, and thus despise, personal responsibility, and always shift blame to others.

    And although gun legislation is proven to affect only the law-abiding, liberals want more of it (Chicago anybody?), which gives further credence to the maxim that “doing the same thing(s) and expecting a different outcome is insanity”.

    As was the case when the USSR was in power, it should not be our goal to appease liberals; our objective must be to defeat them. Until right-minded people can restore order to Seattle’s government, it is doomed. Just like California, from which we fled after a lifetime (50+ years) there. Sometimes a battle requires a retreat, with the outcome of the war still unknown. However, the 2016 national election result was a victorious battle, and here’s to hoping that there’s a lot more to follow.

    As to the common-sense belief that the 2nd Amendment upholds the 1st Amendment, and therefore liberals should champion the former, it’s not the case. Liberals don’t believe in ‘freedom of speech’ unless one’s viewpoint agrees with theirs. When a liberal spews “celebrate diversity”, they don’t mean diversity of viewpoint or philosophy or religion; they mean of skin color. These pigmentistas are enemies of freedom. The only freedom they truly value is the freedom to use drugs, be promiscuous/irresponsible/destructive, and have somebody else pay for it.

    In closing, here’s a final thought on the insanity and hypocrisy of liberalism: who hates ‘Big Tobacco’ yet is the most strident supporter of legalized marijuana? Yep, the loons on the left.

    Fight the good fight.

  2. The Seattle city council will consider this law a great success. Of course it was never about the revenue. It was always about placing burden on gun owners and driving gun dealers out of the city.

    1. I was about to leave pretty much the same comment! This law has nothing to do with taxes, but everything to do with restricting the rights of citizens…….. By getting rid of the firearms industry from their city.

  3. What an outstanding success. Since you can’t buy a firearm in Seattle, all the stores in surrounding towns are doing great. Of course, no-one in Seattle is buying anything outside of Seattle, so that should bring down the crime rates there. Right?
    Can I get an Amen here?

  4. I am sure there were a lot of voters in Seattle last October. The city would have made more than $200,000 if they had enacted a $20 voter’s tax. If they did that, I am sure they wouldn’t try to justify that tax by explaining how much money it was going to raise for the city. Maybe the people who elected judge Robinson should have to pay a voter’s tax – that revenue could go towards a program to show how much the Constitutional rights of citizens are being depleted.

  5. The above is the represents normal liberal thinking as well as the result of typical liberal thinking. Liberals are no different than Nazis or communists or fascists. They want to be all powerful and all knowing. They are neither, as the above results indicate. They won’t learn. They will do it again over and over in other places and other ways. They are morons.

  6. Life in the Sanctuary City….
    The Seattle “Good Old Boys Club” shoots itself in the
    foot again, but the people do the bleeding.

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