Seattle: Tax Guns, Ammo to Fund Anti-Violence Effort

Tim Burgess
Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess wants to put extra taxes on guns and ammo in Washington's biggest city. Photo from Guns.com.Ellen M. Banner

In Seattle, Washington, the City Council President Tim Burgess has proposed a new tax on every firearm and round of ammunition sold in the city, according to this story from guns.com. An additional proposed ordinance would require gun owners in the city to tell police about lost or stolen firearms.

Burgess says the revenue from the new tax, expected to generate $500,000 a year, would be used to fund gun-violence-prevention programs and research, according to the Seattle Times.

The tax would amount to $25 on each modern firearm and 4 cents on each round of ammo, in addition to the various state and local retail taxes that approach 9.6 percent in the city already.

"Gun violence is very expensive," Burgess said, mentioning that the city covered more than $12 million in public hospital bills last year related to shooting injuries. "It's time for the gun industry to help defray those costs and this is a very reasonable way to do it."

Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told guns.com that Seattle's move could be interpreted as a direct attempt to usurp the civil rights of gun owners.

"The NSSF will vigorously oppose this misguided attempt to blame the lawful and regulated commerce in firearm and ammunition products for the violent acts of criminals," Keane said. "The proposed tax is nothing but a poll tax on the exercise of a fundamental civil liberty protected by the Second Amendment."

Other gun advocates say that the new tax may conflict with Washington's preemption laws, which say local governments can't implement regulations on firearms in excess of the state's own codes.

"It looks like we will get to sue Seattle again and notch another win," said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. "We have already sued them under the Washington preemption law and won before. They make winning firearms freedom one lawsuit at a time fun!"

Earlier this year, a Missouri state representative introduced legislation in the wake of the Ferguson riots, mandating all police wear body cameras paid for through a special sales tax on munitions. Proposed "sin taxes" on ammo were unsuccessfully pursued in Illinois and Washing D.C. in recent years.