A King County Superior Court judge ruled against gun advocates today and upheld the City of Seattle's new tax on guns and ammo, which is set to take effect on January 1.
At question in the case was a bill sponsored by Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess and approved by the full council that added new taxes of $25 per firearm and $.05 per round of ammunition on the sale of most guns and ammunition in Seattle. The money raised from the taxes will help fund an intervention program for gunshot victims at Harborview Medical Center.
After the council passed the legislation, gun advocacy groups—including the National Rifle Association, the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, and two Seattle gun stores—sued the city, claiming the taxes violate a state ban on local gun regulations. That ban refers to gun regulations, but not gun taxes. Gun advocates argued Burgess's tax was in fact a regulation; the city's lawyer disagreed.
Today, Judge Palmer Robinson agreed with the city, writing that the per-gun and per-bullet fees were indeed taxes, not regulations, in part because they will raise money to fund public health programs, not the regulation of guns in the city.
Burgess said in a statement after the ruling that "the NRA and its allies always oppose these common sense steps to shine light on the gun violence epidemic."
"They have blocked funding for basic gun safety research at the federal level for decades," Burgess said. "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 Second Amendment Foundation issued a statement promising "an immediate appeal.” The organization’s founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said in the statement: “It is unconscionable for Mayor Ed Murray and the city council to codify what amounts to social bigotry against firearms retailers and their customers, and we are going to fight this vigorously in defense of a state preemption law that has served Washington citizens well for more than three decades.”
The NRA did not immediately return a request for comment.
UPDATE: An NRA spokesperson says in a statement: "It’s unfortunate the court choose to ignore the law and embrace the Seattle City Council’s anti-gun agenda. This is not the final word. We will keep fighting until all legal avenues are exhausted and the people of Seattle are free to exercise their Second Amendment rights without persecution from their elected officials."