Seattle has been charging a $25 per firearm tax on guns (not to mention two to five cents per round of ammunition) sold in the city since it was approved by the city council back in 2015. The legal warriors at the Second Amendment Foundation along with the NRA sued the city, arguing that the tax is de facto gun control, violating the state of Washington’s preemption law which prohibits municipalities from enacting gun control measures at the local level.

But the state supreme court didn’t see it that way. From seattletimes.com:

The justices ruled 8 to 1 to affirm a previous decision by the King County Superior Court, which sided with the city against opponents, including the National Rifle Association. …

The majority opinion concluded in part that the city’s ordinance does impose a tax, rather than a regulation, on firearms “because its primary purpose is to raise revenue for the public benefit.”

Uh huh. The Seattle city council’s sole purpose in enacting the tax was to raise funds. It had nothing at all to do with running the few remaining gun stores out of the city and pricing firearms out of the range of lower income citizens. Oh, by the way, I have a lovely Space Needle I’d like to sell you.

SAF’s main man Alan Gottlieb isn’t pleased:

“This isn’t just a loss for the rule of law, firearms dealers and gun owners living in Seattle,” Gottlieb said. “It’s a slap in the face to the Washington Legislature. In 1983, state lawmakers adopted the state’s preemption act, which squarely put all firearms regulation under authority of the Legislature. It is clear from this ruling that the Legislature will have to strengthen the preemption act to not only nullify what amounts to an unconstitutional poll tax on gun owners, but to also make sure this is not allowed to happen again.”

We won’t hold our breath.

Remember that the ruse used at the time the tax was proposed was that the levy would raise as much as half a million dollars. Seattle’s city fathers would then, in their infinite wisdom, invest that pot of lucre in “gun-violence research as part of an effort to stop it.”

But as government entities are wont to do, the tax’s proponents — led by city council president Tim Burgess — estimated the resulting revenues using static analysis. In other words, they didn’t take into account the effect the tax would have in reducing gun sales in the city. Raise the price of guns, and fewer people will buy them.

Wait, who are we fooling? Of course they took that into account. They knew exactly what the tax would do in terms of driving the retail gun businesses out of their city. Which explains why the fought so long and hard against releasing the actual total of receipts their stealth gun control law sham of a tax brought in.

Seattle residents, being the rational beings they are, acted as the the laws of economics dictate rational actors will. Looking to pay less, they went outside the city to buy their firearms. And stores within the city limits got out.

So the the Emerald City has rid itself of some icky gun stores. Never mind that the move had no effect on the city’s crime rate. Somehow criminals still manage to get their hands on firearms. As for that valuable gun violence research the city said they’d be funding…we’re sure that data will be released any time now.

 

 

103 Responses to Washington State Supreme Court Rules Against SAF, NRA; Taxation Is Not Regulation

    • Interesting…I’d never heard of that one.

      While I get where you’d come at it using the same standard with the Second Amendment, as the WA tax is collected by sellers and paid by consumers I could see a court throwing it out because you’re not burdening a firearm manufacturer or seller in the same way that paper tax was charged against a “manufacturer” of a newspaper.

      Though “manufacturer” is indeed a good description that leftist bird cage liner affectionately known around these parts as the Minneapolis Red Star, but I digress…

    • Pittman Roberston Excise Tax, on Guns & Ammunition Unconstitutional?
      —————————————————————————————————-
      “This collaboration of the firearms industry, through its trade organizations, with the federal government to further the recreational interests of hunters and other outdoor sportsmen is a dangerous entanglement that threatens our Second Amendment rights.

      We know, from Minneapolis Star, that the Supreme Court will not countenance differential tax treatment that burdens or threatens the exercise of a fundamental individual right. What the Court will not do, we also know, is render judgment about the constitutionality of taxes based on an economic assessment of just how burdensome they are. We cannot, therefore, simply condone the imposition of specific excise taxes on firearms so long as they remain modest in amount, believing that we can wait to raise the question when the taxes reach truly burdensome levels, and then contest them on grounds that they have become burdensome.”
      John Snyder, Arms, Law and Society No. 1, Spring 1995

      • The Minneapolis Star Tribune case would make me think so, but the court might go with the “but guns” reasoning that seems so popular these days.

    • There was also a district court case out of Guam that ruled a local tax on handguns was unconstitutional. That tax was $1,000.00 in that case.

      The only more extreme example I can think of was the NFA at the time it passed (and probably up to the 70’s).

  1. Taxation is not regulation? What about that $200 NFA tax or the tax on cigarettes or taxes on sugary beverages. All are intended to dissuade the purchase of said products.

    • Those entities end up losing money. Ask PepsiCo. lol
      These businesses closing will hurt the idiotic cities that think this is a good idea and that half million in revenue never appears because they can’t tax what’s can’t be sold.

    • 80,000 pages to the US tax code is not to simply to raise revenue. You could raise the same amount with a few hundred pages of regs, even with most people paying about the same amount they do now.

      Those massive tax regulations are there to control behavior. Tax what they don’t want you to do, offer deductions and credits for what they do want you to do. And pay off their “constituents”, of course. Like accountants and tax preparers.

      • There is NO US tax code! The entire US government is a corporation that is illegally usurping this country. ALL of these codes and regulations are violations of the Constitution, there is NOTHING in the Constitution that authorizes “government” to PROHIBIT anything! The only laws needed are to punish those who commit a crime, a crime being an act that injures or kills an individual or damages property! The “federal” government, state governments, and most cities and counties are ALL corporations/companies, they are NOT legal governments! https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=us+government+corporation

  2. So when the Democrat controlled South instituted a poll tax, that wasn’t regulation of who could vote? This one is going down on appeal, just like so much other crap the Left coast keeps pushing!

    • Going down on appeal … to whom? That was Washington’s State Supreme Court. There is no higher court in Washington who can hear an appeal.

        • This case is about state law (the preemption statute). Federal courts must apply state law as that state’s high court would.

          If this case were about the same issue as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, then the case could be appealed to the SC, which would probably not hear it.

        • The Interstate Commerce clause allows the federal government to easily get involved, if it wanted to (and it has to increase gun control within states that have no interest), and the 2nd Amendment cannot (theoretically) be ignored by the states either. Now, in this case, the state has said that there’s no 2nd issue because taxing isn’t regulation. That declaration does not stand immutable in and of itself and could also be easily challenged by the federal courts, again: if they had inclination to do so.

      • Wait, so how do McDonald/Peruta and a crapload of other local-issue cases end up at SCOTUS if you can’t appeal state laws beyond the state supreme court?

        • Because those cases weren’t about whether or not a local statute violated a state law. From what I’ve read in this article, this case was about whether or not the tax violated the state gun control preemption law. That is purely a question of state law.

          McDonald and Peruta were about whether the state gun control law violated the 2A. That is a federal question. Also, Peruta wasn’t ever in the state courts. McDonald probably wasn’t either.

    • Good point for historical reference! But the racist morally bankrupt liberal will always ignore reality.

  3. “But as government entities are wont to do, the tax’s proponents — led by city council president Tim Burgess — estimated the resulting revenues using static analysis. In other words, they didn’t take into account the effect the tax would have in reducing gun sales in the city. Raise the price of guns, and fewer people will buy them.”

    The city is clueless on all it’s taxes and regulations. Is it small wonder that the two counties immediately to the north and south– Snohomish and Pierce– are #1 and #2 respectively in the whole nation for migration, even though Microsoft and Amazon… the reason why all these folks are moving to this area… are in King County, with Amazon in Seattle proper?

    • From what I have read in SAF mailings, Seattle has repeatedly refused to release tax revenue numbers as it would violate the privacy rights of gun and ammo buyers.

      1) Redact the personal info, publish the numbers.

      2) So NOW it’s a good thing to shield gun owners from prying eyes? When the anti’s publish home addresses of handgun owners…that’s different

      3) The tax was about raising revenue. It didn’t. Show us how badly you lied to get this passed.

      This was NEVER about revenue. A city council member even said so publicly.

  4. Well shit. There goes my favorite gun-and-everything-else store.

    Outdoor Emporium, there’s room in Burien and Tukwila.

    • It’s highly likely they’ll leave Seattle. They’ve already lost significant revenue and had to layoff staff. Since relief is not coming, there’s no reason to stay. When they leave, that’s something on the order of $1 million in tax revenue gone from the city.

      • Right, and that’s a bunch of money that the city gets every year.

        That’s not as good as the one-time $200k (or thereabouts) windfall they got for this move, right?
        I
        Much fiscal.

  5. I could just look at this group and know which we they would rule.
    Prog-girls are hot for guys in bow ties. The only problem – Prog-girls look like these creatures.

  6. When is a tax NOT a form of regulation? When it has not risen directly from legislation???? YA, like that never happens. F ALL U black robed POS. Taxation is nothing but regulation, it’s not a fair-share thing, OR ELSE WE’D DIVVY UP THE BILL BY HEAD COUNT AND WE LIKELY COULDN’T AFFORD SO MANY BLACK ROBED AHOLES.

  7. As much as I dislike the tax, it is not akin to a poll tax and it is not an affront to the second amendment. If it was, then you would have to pay a tax every time you shoot the firearm or annually to keep the firearm. Consequently it is a local sales tax for a specific type of product similar to a liquor tax or a marijuana tax. Again, I don’t like the tax but it in no way impacts the second amendment. For those of you that would argue that it keeps lower income individuals from buying a gun….blame the firearms/ammo manufacturers for charging so much, blame the person for making bad life choices and being poor. Nowhere in the constitution does it guarantee the right to cheap firearms and ammunition (although it would be cool if it did). I can also hear many of you say “well what if the tax was $1,000″ would that be fair?”. Sure it would. These were duly elected individuals that have the authority granted to them by the citizenry to make these types of taxing decisions….Even if they are idiots. That is all.

    • Is this sarcasm? A tax of 2 or 5 cents per round could be argued is a tax for every time you shoot your firearm.

      • No it is not sarcasm. A tax of 2 to 5 cents per round is not a tax every time you shoot your firearm. It is a tax on every time you purchase ammo. Two different things. You can reload, and not pay the tax. You can purchase ammo elsewhere outside of city limits and not pay the tax. I understand it sounds like I am splitting hairs, but there is a very important fundamental difference.

        • So it’s a deliberate burden on the exercise of a constitutional right by the poor, because it only leaves options that are expensive.

          Interesting how these liberals love the poor… until they don’t.

        • @ million,

          “$.02 for .22 caliber or smaller.
          $.05 for greater than .22.

          2 *or* 5 cents per round.”

          Thanks for pointing this out. Kind of like the difference between farting and breaking wind.

        • @ million

          I apologize. I thought you were making a different point and did not pick up on your original intent. Interesting thought that the difference in tax per bullet could be intended to discriminate against different parties.

      • +1

        A tax on every bullet is the literal definition of paying tax everytime you shoot, so yes, it is very much akin to a poll tax.

        By the logic of prices not being set in the constitution, where does the right to “affordable health care” come into play….because most on the left seems to think that’s a right somewhere in the constitution……..

        Finally, it is not akin to liquor or cannabis in terms of taxation. Those items, unlike voting and firearms are not specifically called out in the constitution as rights for all. Those are luxuries.

      • You are already paying a tax on every round of ammo. You buy a $20 box of shells with a 6% sales tax, you are paying 2.4 cents a round in tax. A $600 pistol at 6% is a $36 dollar tax on that weapon.

    • As much as I dislike the tax, it is not akin to a poll tax and it is not an affront to the second amendment.

      This is why we can’t have nice things.

      • I took a look at the case (Thanks Google!). I think there are some important differences. The case you cited dealt with a tax that had a fundamental flaw. The flaw is that the “Use” tax was able to be manipulated to where it affected organizations differently/disproportionately i.e. they were worried the tax could be used to target specific organizations 1A rights. Unfortunately the tax on firearms here, affects everyone consistently. Apples and oranges or at least Red Apples and Granny Apples. Please note, I fully support the 2A. In fact it is one of the very few things I am passionate about. I just think we have a loser of a case in this instance….and it currently happens to be a loser 8 to 1. Best bet is to have the voting public vote these idiots out and repeal the tax.

        • “Please note, I fully support the 2A.”…but. Really?
          This is a far different critter than a general, same for every other item sold, sales tax. It is specifically targeted to repress (infringe) firearms. It is the city government, and now the state government, throwing it weight around, a clear abuse of authority.

        • @ Baldwin

          I don’t full understand why you put “….but. Really?” There was no “but” in my support for the 2A. Are you questioning my support? I think a persons right to carry a firearm is unlimited. I think anyone not incarcerated should be able to purchase any firearm of their pleasing and of their means. I don’t think the second amendment is about hunting, I think it is about government tyranny. I carry every single day. I shoot and practice on a regular basis. I have more money tied up in firearms and firearm related shit (you know what I am talking about) then the cost of a moderately priced new SUV. I think background checks are unconstitutional. Unfortunately, I just don’t think taxing an item, even an item related to the 2A, is unconstitutional (I wish it were), and currently the presiding court agrees. These people have been granted the authority to do this. I think the proper constitutional channel currently, is to vote these people out and repeal the tax.

        • The argument you are referring to is part V of the decision. Part V began “Minnesota’s ink and paper tax violates the First Amendment not only because it singles out the press, but also because it targets a small group of newspapers.” Everything before part V was saying the tax should be struck down because it treats the press differently than other businesses. Part V says it should be struct down for the additional reason of it being able to be used to treat different press outlets differently.

          The decision was 8 to 1. Justice White only signed onto part V. That means it was a 7 to 1 decision saying that a tax on the 1A that does not apply to all other activities is unconstitutional.

    • SKP5885,

      … the tax … in no way impacts the second amendment.

      First of all, I disagree with your statement. Anything that raises the price of an object reduces how many people will acquire that object.

      Second of all, please explain how this very same taxing scheme would be okay on the First Amendment:
      (1) Every person would have to pay a $25 tax on every book that they purchase … and pay a 5 cent tax on every word in every article that they read.
      (2) Every person would have to pay a $25 tax every time they joined a church … and pay a 5 cent tax on every church service they attended.
      (3) Every person would have to pay a $25 tax every time they joined a political rally … and pay a 5 cent tax per word on their petitions to government to redress grievances.

      If those types of taxes on the First Amendment are gross and obscene, they are equally gross and obscene on the Second Amendment.

    • Didn’t think a LEFT thinking person would take their time to come in here and make themselves known. I’m betting you voted for Hillary but won’t tell anyone you did so.

      • There is nothing left leaning about my comments. I find that offensive. If you think someone that states they dislike something, but does not think it is unconstitutional is left leaning for some reason, then you good sir, are an assclown. I am not a lawyer, I simply think this case is not going to get overturned on appeal. I read TTAG every day, and this is the very reason I rarely ever comment, because all of a sudden someone who is unwilling to read all the comments starts questioning your ideology.

        • A sales tax on everything including guns is fine. A tax specifically FOR guns is unconstitutional. The comparison to sin taxes is false. The right to keep and bear marijuana is not enshrined in the Constitution.

          The cost to purchase and sales tax on cars and gasoline required to go to the polls is Constitutional, a tax for the ability to cast your ballot is not. Even if that tax is a one time tax.

          Similarly the cost to purchase a gun and ammo and the sales taxes applied to everything including those items is fine. A tax specifically on firearms is designed specifically to shut down a constitutional right. I don’t understand what is so complicated about that. Licensing fees specifically to carry a firearm, extra taxes specifically on firearms… these things are the exact equivalent to a poll tax.

          I’m sorry that you take offense at being called a leftist. I would wager that the vast majority of people here take offense at being taxed for the right to keep and bear arms. I would also wager the vast majority of people here take offense at apologists defending taxes on Constitutional guarantees.

          As oliver says just below me a one time tax to register to vote or to change political affiliation would never be permitted.

    • So would that mean it would be legally ok for a state to enact a one time $1000 tax to register to vote or to change your political affiliation? Hey if you dont like it you can register in another state. It sounds like this would be permitted then.

    • No. Just, no.

      A tax is regulation when items are taxed higher than others to impact purchasing. Cigarettes? Regulation. Booze? Regulation (in many states). Gas, etc. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional… except when you are screwing with a right that ‘shall not be infringed.’

      Let’s see what happens and what the ACLU would do if the government were to tax rainbow flags extra… to raise revenue.

    • You paid a tax on every bullet, so yeah; you are paying a tax every time you shoot the firearm. I sure hope that sounded better in your head. Pittman-Robertson at least has the excuse that its revenue isn’t directly used *against* the interests of those being forced to pay it (that’s like literally the philosophical definition of tyranny, by the way) since it pays for the upkeep of public lands ostensibly used by hunters paying the fees. But even that is badly flawed by the notion that 9mm defensive handgun stuff somehow has any business being specifically taxed to pay for duck wetlands; that’s unequal application of tax law against a class of people for unsupported, arbitrary reasons (though not necessarily to punish them, as these Seattle laws clearly are)

      I find it hilarious that a state that legalized weed –made illegal under an unpayable federal tax scheme, much like NFA items, and exactly like this ammo tax will be before too long– has their courts issue this opinion

      • If the bullet tax is paid at point of sale, instead of when the round is fired, then it’s not a tax on using ammo per se. One pays the tax, whether or not it’s ever used. Either way, it’s Grade A mierda del toro.

  8. There is something called a ballot box and if you don’t have enough support for your causes someone else gets theirs.

    • Funny thing, the Constitution was written specifically to counter that argument. It was written to prevent not only the tyranny of a despot, but the tyranny of the majority.

  9. The claim was that $300-$500 thousand would be made. The money then spent on “research. The city hasn’t released the actual tax revenue yet. While it’s “less then $200 thousand,” we don’t know how much “less.” One estimate I heard was “$74,000”
    Seattle passed a soft drink tax using the same argument. Supposedly this would reduce consumption and the money spent for health.
    Strange, two identical taxes but one will reduce consumption but the other will just raise money? Even stranger the soft drink tax is going to fund all sorts of programs while reducing comsuption (and by that tax revenue) You gotta love Seattle. Must be all the weed.

    • One estimate I heard was “$74,000”

      Is that before or after accounting for lost revenues due to businesses moving out of the city and taking their jobs with them?

      • No, and it doesn’t account for the approximately $200,000 spent in spinning up the program, either. The tax probably nets at -$300,000, or maybe possibly an even larger deficit.

      • Sadly, there is plenty of precedent for the legality of taxes that destroy economic value (which is funny since the early stated primary function for popular government to protect free commerce from those who would stifle it to reap a personal advantage)

  10. Good this will ensure Seattle raises less taxes from the sale of such weapons and ammo and voters vote with their feet. There is a bigger importance in the notion of “Gun Free” zones in liberal areas as a population control measure, when criminals kill off the national socialist population over the American one in a very disproportionate manner.

  11. In case anyone is wondering who the lone dissenter was, it was Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud. She’s the short woman with red hair and glasses, in the front row in the pic. Her dissenting opinion:

    “RCW 9.41.290′ s plain language demonstrates clear legislative intent to preempt local ‘laws and ordinances’ that ‘relat[e] to firearms’ as broadly as possible. A city tax that singles out the sale of firearms and ammunition for disadvantageous treatment is therefore preempted,” .

  12. So I guess these judicial geniuses would find a poll tax Constitutional? After all, it’s a tax, not a regulation.

    • “So I guess these judicial geniuses would find a poll tax Constitutional?”

      If the tax applied to Conservative voters, *yes*.

      They would argue since we are for cheap gas, we are damaging the environment, and therefor should pay for it…

  13. What did they expect from these p.o.s. communist judges? Remember the poll tax that was deemed unconstitutional? This is the exact same thing.

  14. Gun stores and ammunition sellers should leave the city. Competition will run them out anyway.

    Then Seattle will be as safe as Chicago.

  15. The highest estimate I’ve seen for the incoming revenue was just over $100,000. No clear estimate on how much sales tax revenue was lost, however, not to mention the fact that there have been employees laid off from the one large remaining store, Outdoor Emporium.

    One of their managers noted that it is not just firearms sales that dropped off significantly, other retail activity in the store dropped off as well. This was never about raising money for research, it was simply a political move, and it has brought significant revenue loss overall to the city.

  16. Simply another “poll tax” which actually keeps guns out of the hands of the poor and disadvantaged. Wow, the south all over again.

  17. Meh…same as in Cook County,IL. I won’t pay it. VIOLENCE tax(lol).I buy guns and ammo in Indiana. They also instituted a sugary drink tax for”health”. I’m happy I sell neither sugary crap or firearms. SOL…

      • I bet you’d like a little boy to have your way with. Most of you lawyers are degenerate scum anyhow. How do you live with yourself? Whats wrong? Truth hurt? I thought you’d be a proud pedophile. If it were up to me, the camp wouldn’t hold judges or lawyers long…just long enough for assets and gold teeth to be collected from you dirty peices of human feces.

    • Yeah, yeah. People hate lawyers until they need one, and when it’s serious enough that you need a good one, they’re a bargain no matter the fee. They’re people too (unlike reporters or politicians), so there’s good ones and bad ones. This is a generalization, but I think there’s some evidence that the good lawyers tend to stay in the field, and some bad ones run for office. This is how we get legislators that make bad law. If a kid ever asks you how a politician is born, you can use the birds and the bees guidelines: “You see son, when a bad lawyer and a bad idea love each other very much….”. It’s not the lawyers fault – it’s the citizens (our) fault. We have the government our citizens asked for because a good portion of our citizens have required them to do for them what they should have done for themselves. Blaming the lawyers and judges is just shifting ownership from who caused the problem by broad brushing an assemblage that has a few inhabitants that are merely the symptom of the problem.

      • Though technically, the only reason you’d need a good lawyer, is because of all the other lawyers out there looking to snap their dick off in your ass, and all the judges eager to show off their power. But it’s not a lawyer problem, it’s a human problem; the never-ending arms race of legal maneuvers by those trying to rob each other means people like that are valuable, is all. Even back when dueling was permitted as an end-run around courtroom shenanigans, they still had their place bringing ruin to what would otherwise be a Utopian existence.

        • The reason we have so many laws that cause people problems (and thus they need a lawyer) is because a bunch of assholes said “there ought to be a law” or “someone should do something.”

  18. Odd – the US Supremes said the Obamacare “fees” that made us all healthier snd wealthier were essentially regulations, not taxes. Go figure.

    Can’t imagine why the wet-side progressive SoCal ex-pats would do such a thing.

  19. The war never ends. That photo of blacked robed slime makes me ill. Anyone with an inkling of common sense knows what this ILLEGAL tax it really about. CONTROL.

  20. This is so dumb. This was regulation from the get-go, obviously. Furthermore, this sets the precedent that the city council can add a random tax for damn near anything. Our sewage treatment plant poo-sploded last winter, but I bet you won’t be seeing them set a tax on rolls of TP or “flushable” wipes to raise money to clean up that mess.

    They certainly did push out a bunch of gun stores and pawn shops, _begin-sarcasm_ but that of course was not the intended result, for that I’m sure they are really sorry. _end-sarcasm_

  21. “assault weapons” seem to be the focus here by the government.
    OK
    Why am I seeing so much wood? (cue Beavis & Butthead laughter)

    Modern military weapons tend to avoid wood. The picture of what they seized prove they didn’t get what they wanted.
    (legal, expensive, sporting rifles)

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