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Washington State Supreme Court upholds Seattle’s gun tax

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

The Washington State Supreme Court has upheld Seattle’s gun tax on firearms and ammunition sales.

RELATED: Is Seattle’s gun tax really a misguided punishment tax?

The 8-1 decision was issued Thursday morning.

“One justice did dissent from this view, so it was not unanimous,” Attorney Phil Talmadge told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “…but the basic sense from the majority opinion was they went through the analysis and (the gun tax) does look more like a tax than a regulatory process.”

Talmadge is a former Supreme Court justice and Democratic state senator. He sponsored the original gun regulation legislation at the heart of the case. That legislation established that no local jurisdictions can regulate firearms ahead of the state.

“Historically, there has been a difference between regulations as such and taxation,” he said. “The Supreme Court has had a protocol for deciding what is a regulatory process, or a fee, and what constitutes a tax. They applied that analysis pretty faithfully in this opinion. Like it or dislike it, that’s the way they’ve done it.”

Seattle’s gun tax was challenged by the NRA, local gun rights groups, some gun owners and gun stores who argued the tax is illegal because cities aren’t allowed to regulate firearms under state law.

But the city says a tax is different from a regulation. The Supreme Court agreed.

Seattle passed its gun tax in August 2015. It was aimed at funding gun-violence prevention, research and other programs to mitigate the public costs of gun-related crimes. The effort was spearheaded by Councilmember Tim Burgess. It places a $25 tax on guns sold in Seattle, and up to 5-cents on each round.

However, the city hasn’t taken in nearly as much revenue from the tax as originally predicted. Supporters on the council expected as much as $500,000 in revenue; in May, the city had collected less than $200,000.

Meanwhile, shootings continue, though some would argue a recent crackdown has reduced some of the gun violence. There were 36 shootings and four fatalities in the first five months of 2017. Reports of shots fired rose to 155 by May 15 – 11 more than the same time in 2015, and 23 more than this time last year.

As of July 31, the number of reported shots fired this year was 237.

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