Court: Seattle is allowed to tax guns and ammo

Dec 22, 2015, 3:48 PM | Updated: Dec 23, 2015, 8:52 am
Sergey Solyanik formerly had a gun store on Aurora Avenue in Seattle. The store, Precise Shooter, m...
Sergey Solyanik formerly had a gun store on Aurora Avenue in Seattle. The store, Precise Shooter, moved to Lynnwood after the city started to tax firearms and ammo. (AP)

A King County court is saying that the City of Seattle can tax guns and ammo as it approved earlier this year.

Seattle’s gun tax has come under fire from pro-gun groups and local gun stores ever since the city council passed the taxes last summer. Seattle plans to collect $25 per gun sold, and 2-5 cents for each round of ammo. That opposition led to a courtroom this month, and ultimately a superior court judge landing in favor of the City of Seattle on Tuesday.

Related: Gun shops ask court for speedy decision on Seattle’s gun tax

Gun shop owners, the NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an the Second Amendment Foundation &#8212 based out of Bellevue &#8212 asked the King County Superior Court for a summary judgement this month, aiming to void the city’s tax. Plaintiffs argued that the city’s tax amounts to gun regulation at the local level &#8212 something that is not allowed by state regulation. But King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson sided with city.

“We established the gun violence tax as a legitimate and appropriate way to raise revenue for gun safety and research and prevention programs,” said Seattle Council Member Tim Burgess, sponsor of the original gun tax bill.

“The NRA and its allies always oppose these common-sense steps to shine light on the gun violence epidemic,” he said. “They have blocked funding for basic gun safety research at the federal level for decades. But in Seattle it is different. Judge Robinson saw through the NRA’s distorted efforts to put gun industry profits ahead of public safety.”

The city argues that the gun tax is aimed to curb the affects of gun violence in the city. The city estimates that the gun tax will raise between $300,000 and $500,000 each year. That money will be dedicated to gun violence research and prevention programs.

But gun store owners have criticized the city’s gun tax. Sergey Solyanik has said that his store, Precise Shooter, will be forced out of the city because of the tax. Solyanik has said that with only two gun shops in Seattle, customers will simply drive a little further to avoid the tax. That will cause the city to take in far less than it estimates, and it will cause shops like his to either go out of business or move out of town.

Renee Hopkins with the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility came out in defense of the judge’s ruling shorting after it was announced, saying that it has always been clear that the tax on gun sales was “proper and lawful.”

“This is the second time this year that the gun lobby has tried – and failed – to use the courts to block the express will of the people for action on gun violence,” Hopkins said. “Today’s ruling is a clear message that their campaign to eliminate any factual information about gun violence is not welcome in Washington State. The gun lobby should stand aside and allow Seattle’s law to take effect as scheduled. We will continue to stand with the City of Seattle in vigorously defending the law from further attack.”

“The costs of gun violence are far too high – for the taxpayers that paid $12 million in direct medical costs last year, and certainly for the victims and survivors of gun violence,” she said. “The funds now available to the city will support first-in-the-nation research that is providing invaluable tools to our medical and law enforcement professionals for understanding this challenge…”

Between 2006 and 2010 there was an average of 131 deaths attributed to firearms each year in King County, according to KIRO7, as well as 536 people who were hospitalized for shooting-related injuries.

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Court: Seattle is allowed to tax guns and ammo