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

May 17, 2016, 7:22 AM | Updated: 7:25 am

The City of Seattle promoted its gun tax as a means of paying for the byproducts of gun violence. The tax is added to sales of firearms and ammunition. But KIRO Radio’s Ron Upshaw and Tom Tangney wonder if we are now seeing the true intention of the tax.

“It’s kind of like a punishment tax,” said KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney who was stepping in as co-host alongside Ron Upshaw.

Related: Seattle collects first gun taxes but won’t let anyone see them

“The city council decided that guns do bad things to people so we should have some kind of reparation,” Tom said. “So the people who sell guns may or may not have been involved with that harm so maybe they should mitigate some of the harm brought on by guns. I don’t know if this will work. I don’t have a problem with what the city council is trying to do. The question is if it will run all the gun shops out of town.”

That’s exactly what happened. Seattle’s two gun stores left town to avoid the tax that places a $25 fee on each gun sold and 5 cents on every round of ammunition. At least one pawn shop simply stopped selling firearms and ammunition altogether just so it wouldn’t have to deal with it. And the remaining stores aren’t primarily firearms stores, such as Outdoor Emporium which sells a range of outdoor supplies. That store, however, reports that the tax did hit them hard — enough so that it laid off two employees. The store’s owner, Mike Coombs, said the layoffs were the result of the gun tax.

Ron argues that he believes the idea of the gun tax started out with good intentions, but by the time it went through the city’s process, it ended with unintended consequences.

“Sometimes I feel like, in the Pacific Northwest specifically, we are ham-handed when it comes to figuring something like this out,” Ron said. “I think the spirit of it started out pure. We wanted to help out with gun violence, we want to minimize gun violence. And I think most people, even gun owners, would say ‘yeah do that.'”

“But then it became ham-handed in execution,” he said. “If you’ve been to Outdoor Emporium, it’s not a gun store. It’s an outdoor store. The gun section is a tiny fraction of the store and most of it is geared toward hunting. And now you’re forcing a business owner that already deals with all kinds of tax rates and incentives, and he’s basically having … to fire people on the floor. That part of it I find off-putting.”

Ron notes that he has family members who shoot guns and adding the 5 cents on each round of ammunition is excessive for hobbyists who can go through hundreds of rounds in a practice session.

While Tom doesn’t entirely agree with Ron — he thinks something should be done to address gun violence — he thinks the gun tax probably isn’t the correct way to deal with firearm issues.

“Do I think it’s going to cure gun violence? No. Do I think that the people that sell guns are responsible for that gun violence? As a rule, no,” he said. “I feel it’s a way for the City of Seattle to express its displeasure at the harm guns do and trying to extract some help.”

Ron and Don

KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio

Last night was Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio.
3 years ago
Kelly Herzberg in her natural habitat. (Photo by Rachel Belle)...
Rachel Belle

In Seattle, a personal shopper and stylist who only shops at thrift stores

If you think you can't afford a personal stylist, head to the thrift store with Sweet Kelly Anne Styling's Kelly Herzberg who will pull hundreds of pieces for you to try on.
3 years ago
Viaduct waterfront...
Ron Upshaw

What do we do with the waterfront after the viaduct is gone?

After the viaduct is taken down, we'll be left with a choice: What do we do with one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the country?
3 years ago
Ron Upshaw

Shower Thoughts: Ichiro can give Mariners fans something to root for

Rumor has it that Ichiro might make a comeback next year, and I for one welcome it.
3 years ago
Border wall...
Ron Upshaw

Trying to figure out why people want Trump’s border wall

A little over 40 percent of Americans now support the idea of a border wall, but what is it about it that seems so attractive?
3 years ago
Dan McCartney, Pierce County Sheriff...
Don O'Neill

Why you could hear kids’ voices on Pierce County Sheriff radios Monday night

Sometimes, "gone but not forgotten" isn't always how slain officers are remembered. But in Pierce County, a special effort is being made to commemorate a fallen deputy.
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Is Seattle’s gun tax really a misguided punishment tax?