Gun Laws & Legislation

Tacoma Seeks To Adopt Failed Seattle Firearms Policy

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Guns and Gear Contributor

By Larry Keane

Seattle’s southern neighbor, Tacoma, Washington, is going to weigh a plan that’s already proven to be a failed policy. But since its anti-gun, city council members think it is worth adopting.

City Councilman Ryan Mello proposed that Tacoma adopt Seattle’s so-called “gun violence tax” plan that would levy a $25 tax on firearms, a two-cent-per-round tax on .22-caliber or less, or five-cent-per-round for all other ammunition that’s sold at retail.

To put this in real costs, that’s $25 on top of the excise taxes already paid by firearms and ammunition manufacturers, just to exercise a constitutional right by a law-abiding citizen to buy a gun. Rimfire ammunition runs about five cents per round. A two-cent tax increases the cost by 40 percent. A five-cent tax on a box of shotgun shells adds roughly 11 percent to the price tag.

Of course, a higher tax is proposed for “higher velocity” or military-style ammunition, including hollow-points. Never mind that the overwhelming majority of ammunition used by the military is full metal jacketed rounds.

Mello’s reason? “They’re designed to pierce through body armor with the intent to kill somebody,” he said.

No. Hollow-points are not designed to pierce body armor. In fact, there’s definitive proof that body armor easily defeats hollow-point ammunition.

Criminals Don’t Pay Taxes Or Follow Laws

What Mello is really doing is placing the blame for the crime on law-abiding gun owners. Here’s what Mello is missing. Law-abiding gun owners buying firearms at retail are already navigating a tangled web of complicated gun control laws. They complete the sale of that firearm by completing a Form 4473 and an approval from the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System(NICS). Of course, since it’s Washington, that also means the law-abiding gun owner must wait for “enhanced background checks” on semiautomatic modern sporting rifles and handgun transfers that can take as long as 10 days.

Washington also has an age-based gun ban on semiautomatic rifles, so if you’re an 18-year-old adult legally allowed to vote, exercise freedom of speech and religion, you still can’t exercise your Second Amendment rights. If you’re over 21, you must complete additional training requirements and have the chief law enforcement officer’s approval to own a modern sporting rifle. It’s all part of the I-1639 ballot initiative the state enacted into law.

That’s just for those who follow the law. Criminals, of course, don’t bother with any of this. They just steal them or get them on the black market.  That’s proven by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Statistics report showing 90 percent of felons get firearms from means other than legally buying them – theft or the street corner.

All of that brings us back to taxing the wrong people who aren’t responsible for the so-called gun violence. Mello said the tax would fund gun violence programs in Tacoma, much like Seattle said it would.

Taxed Out Of Existence

The problem is, Seattle’s gun and ammo tax failed. The money was meant to offset the cost for treating victims of so-called gun violence at Harborview Medical Center, which city officials said costs taxpayers millions. Seattle raised $104,000 in 2017, the first year the tax was in effect. In 2018, Seattle raised $93,000.

It didn’t work. Crime went up in Seattle just like taxes. In fact, the city’s police chief reported complaints of shots fired were up by 65 percent and recorded crimes involving firearms dropped by just six. At the same time, firearms retailers in Seattle shuttered their shops, moving outside the city. Gun stores went from 40 to 32.

Mello doesn’t want Tacoma to offset the cost of victims of criminal activity. He wants Seattle’s results. Mello’s trying to drive lawful firearms retailers out of town and punish those who lawfully own and use their firearms.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.