By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation
In 2015, Seattle’s City Council passed a “gun violence tax.” In so doing, the council members decided that it would be fine to assess law-abiding gun owners $25 per gun and up to five cents per round of ammunition purchased within the city limits. These elected officials promised their citizens they would raise $500,000 for efforts to study and counter violence within the city.
So what has happened? Well, as NSSF and our partner organizations in fighting the tax predicted at the outset, lawfully operating businesses left the city.
Councilman Tim Burgess, who was instrumental is getting this tax passed, said he wanted to wait until it was in effect for a full year before releasing any revenue number. But we have now passed that anniversary, and city politicos are still refusing to report how much money the tax has actually raised. The logical conclusion is that they haven’t come anywhere close to meeting their goal, and are trying to avoid the public embarrassment of admitting failure.
Most firearms retailers have now exited Seattle. Individuals who want to purchase a gun or ammunition simply drive outside the city limits to avoid wasting hard-earned money on a punitive tax. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this bothers Seattle’s ruling elite. Driving legally operating firearm retailers out of business, or at least out of the out of the city, seems to have been the real unspoken goal.
Criminals, by and large, do not submit themselves to a background check and purchase guns from licensed retailers. Since the gun tax was put into effect, violence has surged in Seattle — mostly attributed to criminal gang activity.
If this tax isn’t raising money and isn’t keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, what then is its purpose? Maybe it appeases the “do-something” sensibilities of the political class that does not know how or does not want to step up to the serious underlying causes of urban violence.
For its part, the Seattle City Council members aren’t talking about what isn’t working. We will.
Larry Keane is the National Shooting Sports Foundation Sr. VP & General Counsel.