Gun Laws & Legislation

Seattle Council Candidates Re-Load On City’s Bad Gun Tax Idea

By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation

Two of Seattle’s city council candidates have a novel idea for the failed gun tax. They want to double it. We’d love to say this is a spoof, but no, they’re serious.

City council candidates Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda are running to replace Tim Burgess, the architect of Seattle’s failed gun tax bid that promised to raise $500,000 to study gun violence by taxing $25 on every gun and 5 cents on each round of ammunition sold. The plan was such a failure that the city council kept the revenue results under wraps, refusing to publicly release the total raised until a court ordered them to do so.

The total haul was hardly a windfall, just $103,766.22. The city said it intended to put the money collected toward gun violence research at Harborview Medical Center. Instead, the city shifted $275,000 from the general fund to cover the study.

The reality is the gun tax was never intended to help curb crime. It was designed to punish lawful firearms businesses and law-abiding gun buyers. Mike Coombs, owner of Seattle’s Outdoor Emporium, paid $86,410.63 from his business. He saw sales drop 15 percent at his Seattle location but saw no such drop at another location in nearby Fife, Wash.

But the bad tax idea brought by Burgess is now being touted by the two competing to replace him as not enough. They both want a $50 tax on each gun and 10 cents on every round sold. Mosqueda said she’d support that plan because the city has a “lack of information where the actual gun violence is happening within our community.”

Really? Seattle Police reported that in the first few months since the gun tax was put into place, reports of shots fired went up 13 percent, people injured in shootings rose 37 percent and gun deaths doubled. Seattle Police responded by increasing patrols in South Seattle and working closely with state police, FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to reduce the gang activity largely responsible.

Seattle has a crime problem. But city council members want to define the problem as guns and either do not understand – or do not want to deal with – the distinct difference. That’s why they want to double down on failed policies that will drive the research dollars they say they seek down to zero.

Let’s be honest. The Seattle tax is equivalent to taxing pharmacies to pay for combating the opioid epidemic. Driving the remaining firearms retailers out of the city is the true goal behind the tax. That won’t reduce crime or make the citizens of Seattle any safer.

Larry Keane is the National Shooting Sports Foundation Sr. VP & General Counsel.