Claiming in an interview with KCPQ News that he knows most gun owners are responsible individuals, Tacoma, WA Councilman Ryan Mello still wants to burden them with a special tax on firearms and ammunition as a way to raise money to address “gun violence.”
As quoted by the Fox News affiliate, Mello justifies his proposal thusly: “We gotta do something.”
The report says Mello’s tax proposal is patterned after a similar tax imposed by the City of Seattle back in 2015. The city was sued, but the state Supreme Court upheld the tax, despite the language in Washington State’s 35-year-old preemption statute:
“The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.”
The proposal would place a $25 tax on gun sales, a 5-cent tax on every centerfire cartridge and 2-cent tax on ever rimfire round sold. Mello reportedly also wants his ordinance to include a tax on something called “high capacity rounds,”
When former Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess hastily pushed through the Seattle gun tax in 2015, he predicted it would raise between $300,000 and $500,000 annually. When TheGunMag.com filed a Public Records Act request the following year to learn the First Quarter revenue, the city refused to disclose, citing privacy concerns for its small number of gun retailers.
The publication and its senior editor revised the request, asking only an aggregate figure. The city still refused. At that point, with support from the Second Amendment Foundation, TheGunMag.com Senior Editor Dave Workman filed a Public Records Act lawsuit in September 2016. Ten months later, the court ruled against the city, forcing it to disclose the true revenue, which was dramatically less than anticipated, at $103,766.22 for all of 2017.
The following year (2017), the city reported gun tax revenues at $93,220.74, and in 2018, the gun tax brought in only $77,518.
The tax pushed sales, and even businesses, out of the city. One of Seattle’s two largest firearms retailers moved its location to Lynnwood, in a different county. Not only was the gun tax revenue lost, but so also the B&O tax. The other major gun dealer has a separate store in Pierce County, and that shop has been sending its customers down there for their gun and ammunition purchases.
In the meantime, the number of homicides has increased in Seattle, from the 18 reported in 2016 to 32 last year, according to data from the Seattle Police Department.
Small wonder, then, that gun rights activists are preparing for battle with the Tacoma City Council. Mello’s proposal reportedly has support from Mayor Victoria Woodards and Councilwoman Catherine Ushka