Gun rights and firearms industry organizations teamed up today against the City of Seattle’s new gun and ammunition tax by joining in a lawsuit against the city and Mayor Ed Murray, who signed the new tax into law Friday.
Attorneys for the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation, joined by two of the city’s firearms retailers – Outdoor Emporium and Precise Shooter LLC – and two private citizens, filed their lawsuit in King County Superior Court.
Representing the plaintiffs are attorneys Steven W. Fogg and David B. Edwards with Corr Cronin Michelson Baumgardner Fogg & Moore. Fogg represented SAF, NRA and other groups in a successful 2009 lawsuit against Seattle which also forced the city to comply with the state preemption act.
Some see this new case as almost a replay of what happened when then-Mayor Greg Nickels pushed a ban on firearms in city park facilities, including those legally carried. At that time, SAF and NRA were joined by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), the Washington Arms Collectors and five private citizens, accusing the city of violating the 33-year-old preemption law that places sole authority for firearms regulation in the hands of the State Legislature.
This marks the first time that NRA and SAF have been joined by NSSF in a legal action. SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb told Examiner that he is delighted to team up with NRA again and also have the strong industry representation that NSSF provides because this new tax amounts to a direct slap at firearms retailers inside the city.
Gottlieb noted that the tax would certainly be passed on to consumers, so it is ultimately individual gun and ammunition buyers who will bear the cost, set at $25 per firearm and five cents for each round of centerfire ammunition. The tax on rimfire ammunition is two cents per cartridge. That still places Seattle gun retailers at a financial disadvantage, and they fear it will drive customers out of the city.
The city council believes that this tax could raise anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 with which the city will reportedly fund some gun control efforts. More likely it will have the negative effect Seattle firearms dealers are predicting, leaving the city with a revenue hole and literally no funding for its gun control programs if these businesses move out.
“Over and above the fact that we’re once again defending state preemption,” Gottlieb said in a prepared statement, “we’re battling what amounts to a poll tax on gun owners and retailers. That simply cannot be allowed to stand.”
“Once again, anti-gun activists in Seattle have chosen to violate the Washington State Constitution and trample upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “They tried to enact similar regulations back in 2009 and lost. It¹s a shame to see such a waste of public resources on issues the courts have already ruled to be unconstitutional.”
“NSSF has no alternative but to be an active party in this lawsuit against the City of Seattle’s attempt to interfere in the lawful commerce in firearms and ammunition on the grounds that it violates Washington State’s preemption statute that blocks cities from regulating the sale of firearms on their own.” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “The Seattle ordinance is nothing but a ‘poll tax’ on the Second Amendment and an effort to drive Seattle’s firearms retailers out of business.”
No matter how the city tries to justify this tax, or explain it, Gottlieb said, it is “still a gun control law and it violates Washington’s long-standing preemption statute.” But that seems to be exactly what the city is up to, regardless under what guise it is presented to the public. The parks gun ban was also an attempt to weaken state preemption, but as it turned out, Seattle’s loss actually strengthened the statute by proving it has teeth.
Washington’s preemption law, first adopted in 1983 and strengthened in 1985, has been something of a model for several other similar laws. Such statutes are aimed at creating uniformity across a state, so that someone from one place doesn’t run afoul of a law in another part of his or her state.
Preemption laws drive gun prohibitionists crazy because they prevent cities like Seattle from establishing their own peculiar regulations, setting themselves up essentially as city-states. In 2009, it was an attempt to ban legal carry on public property. This time around, it’s a tax. What might be next, bans on certain types of firearms? Maybe special requirements and additional fees to obtain or renew a concealed pistol license?
On Friday, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility was crowing over Murray’s signature on the gun tax ordinance, and a second measure requiring lost or stolen guns to be immediately reported to police. They were also asking for money. Perhaps they need a history lesson, best delivered by the late Gen. George S. Patton, and eloquently recited at the end of the biographical film about the warrior, by actor George C. Scott.
“For over a thousand years,” Patton wrote, “Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
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