After delay, Tacoma takes up new version of controversial gun tax
Tacoma’s gun tax proposal is modeled after Seattle’s own gun tax. It would tack on $25 to all gun sales, along with an ammo tax of 2 cents a round for 22 caliber or less, and 5 cents a round for all other ammo sold at retail.
The estimated $30,000 a year the tax would raise would “provide public benefits for residents of Tacoma related to gun violence by providing a portion of the funds needed for programs that promote public safety, prevent gun violence, and address, in part, the cost of gun violence in the City, be used for violence prevention programs,” according the ordinance.
That’s something backers say the city needs, with a 37 percent increase in gun related crimes between 2014-2018. Nineteen of the city’s 22 murders this year involved guns.
Gun retailers have said it will drive them out of business or push them out of the city. There were other concerns from business owners like Scott Dover, CEO of Aero-Precision, one of the largest gun manufacturers in the country.
“This tax will affect not only over-the-counter sales, but it will eventually affect parts and components,” said Dover. “It will just literally put us out of business if we were to stay in Tacoma with this type of tax.”
With 450 employees at the company, Dover says that’s something Tacoma City Council should care about.
Several gun retailers in the city said they would close their doors the day the tax went into effect, while others complained this was an attack on the 2nd Amendment by a gun-hating city council hoping to deter law-abiding citizens from buying firearms.
The council was expected to vote on the measure at its Oct. 29 meeting, drawing an overflow crowd of supporters and critics hoping to have their say. But after multiple councilmembers voiced concerns in a morning study session, as well as their intent to add amendments, the vote was pushed back two weeks to this Tuesday night.
The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting includes several amendments, a substitute ordinance, and two resolutions.
Many of those edits describe the original proposal as not being properly vetted, with a lack of investigation into both the potential benefits and possible negative impacts of the firearm tax.
The amendments include the use of some of the money raised by the tax for a gun buyback program, language to exclude firearm parts from being subject to the tax, and cutting the tax in half.
A substitute ordinance would require a review six months after the tax takes effect and every year after to look at the impact to local businesses, B&O tax revenue losses and benefits of any programs the money goes to, in order to determine whether city should look at repealing it.
There are also a pair of resolutions: One asks the city manager to find $30,000 in the budget to go toward gun violence prevention programs. The other calls for the city manager to review existing youth and gun violence prevention programs, convene a work group to come up with best practices for Tacoma to address gun violence, and a cost benefit analysis for expanding the current programs versus the new tax.