Seattle’s so-called “gun violence tax” continues to fall far short of the promised returns. Recent figures show that while there was a slight bump in taxes collected, the only thing the tax succeeded in was driving constitutionally-protected gun businesses from the city limits.
The tax is in its fourth year and has yet to live up to expectations. In 2015, Seattle’s city council approved a $25 tax on every gun and 5 cents on each round of ammunition sold. The architects of the plan promised it would bring in $500,000 annually that would be used toward gun violence research at the city’s Harborview Medical Center.
Numbers Don’t Lie
It’s yet to even come close to that goal. Last year, the city collected $85,352, which is only $7,800 more than the $77,518 collected in 2018, according to a report from the Second Amendment Foundation. NSSF, along with SAF and NRA challenged the tax on state preemption grounds, but courts in Washington state upheld it. The three organizations knew the tax was actually a form of gun control, which can only be administered by the state and not municipalities. It also punishes law-abiding citizens for the criminal activities of others. NSSF predicted the tax would fail. Four years running, that’s held true.
The first that year tax figures were available was 2016, which saw just $103,766 collected. The next year, figures fell to $93,220 and 2018 saw them at just $77,518. This year’s collections report of $85,352 is a slight rise, but if the back-of-the-napkin math is correct, it is still short by $414,648 of what Seattle city council gun control politicians promised.
Here’s what the tax really did. It drove profitable gun businesses out of the city limits. Outdoor Emporium moved out of Seattle after the owner saw a loss of $2 million in revenue, a 32 percent decline in customer traffic and was forced to lay off three employees. Precise Shooter, another business that was located in Seattle, shuttered their store and opened up in nearby Lynnwood.
Bad ideas aren’t confined to Seattle. Nearby Tacoma picked it up for themselves too. Aero Precision, a firearm parts producer that employs 400 in Tacoma, spoke out against the regressive tax, but city officials pushed it through. The tax in that city was set to take effect in July, but a panel required to study Seattle’s tax wasn’t able to be formed due to the coronavirus restrictions. That plan was put on the shelf and with protests turning violent, it’s not looking like city officials there will be able to get it moving soon.
The bottom line is no one who designed or approved this plan actually believed it would work. They knew a half-million dollars in tax revenue was a political pipe dream. The real goal was to send the message – and political punishment – to constitutionally-protected businesses that their commerce wasn’t welcome. They won’t admit they knew all along it wouldn’t raise anything close to their target tax goal. They won’t admit that Seattle has a crime problem, witnessed during the riots when a private security contractor rushed in with his own handgun to seize a stolen service rifle from a rioter that stole it from a burning police vehicle. They knew their promised research of so-called “gun violence” prevention was as sketchy as their plan to tax gun stores out of the city. They also knew that what they wanted weren’t real solutions®. They wanted gun control and political posturing.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.