Two years after a controversial gun violence tax was adopted by the Cook County, Illinois board, the homicide count in Chicago stands at 281, according to the Chicago Tribune, leaving critics of yesterday’s unanimous Seattle City Council vote to adopt a carbon copy measure wondering what Council President Tim Burgess and his colleagues were thinking.
On April 1, 2013 the Huffington Post quoted Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who said the $25-per-gun tax “would go toward offsetting the high cost taxpayers shoulder as a result of gun violence.” Last year, the Chicago Tribune said there were 434 slayings. If the bloodbath continues there at the current rate, one might say the gun tax has been a failure.
Chicago’s WLS News, the local ABC affiliate, reported last month that for the first six months of 2015, there have been more homicides than at this time last year. In June, the report said, “there were 13 more homicides in Chicago than June of 2014.”
Another city with tough gun laws, Baltimore, yesterday recorded its 200th homicide of the year, according to WMAR, the local ABC affiliate. Baltimore doesn’t have a gun tax, but it has roughly the same population as Seattle. Last year, Seattle had 26 homicides.
Proponents of the Seattle gun tax offered arguments in support of the measure that have little, if anything, to do with what was adopted. The so-called “gun violence” they abhor would not have been prevented by taxing firearms or ammunition.
The Seattle P-I.com noted this morning that yesterday’s vote became “an opportunity to make money” for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR). In an e-mail blast bragging up the 8-0 unanimous council vote, WAGR’S Renee Hopkins declared “We did it!” The e-mail was a beg: “The gun lobby called these proposals ‘dead on arrival’ — and is almost certain to sue the city to overturn them. We have beat the gun lobby before, and we aren’t backing down now. Chip in a donation right now – let’s defend our gains and keep up the momentum!”
The discussion this morning has included talk about how the estimated revenue generated by Seattle’s gun tax – placed between $300,000 and $500,000 – would help offset the $17 million cost of treating gunshot victims, of which about $12 million reportedly is borne by taxpayers. Critics of the gun tax are saying that the estimated revenue is optimistic at best. If three store-front businesses selling firearms move outside the city, that will result in a net loss to the city, not a gain. How is that going to benefit anybody?
Perhaps Seattle’s anti-gun city government and their supporters at WAGR think the benefit will come when gun shops leave the city. How that loss of business will translate to fewer shootings in certain neighborhoods hasn’t been adequately explained.
Lest anyone believe this is all about Seattle and Chicago, keep in perspective that gun prohibitionists will copy what they think works elsewhere, or at least what they think will make headlines that give the impression something positive is being accomplished. The gun tax is yet another strategy that penalizes lawful gun owners – who buy their firearms and ammunition at retail – for the criminal acts of people who operate outside the system.
There will almost certainly be legal action. Both the Seattle Times and Seattle P-I.com, and local television news reports, all predict a lawsuit. The challenge may be on several grounds, not the least of which will be state preemption.
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