(The following post is by Sergey Solyanik, owner of Seattle gun store Precise Shooter, and is reprinted here with permission. An anti-tax Facebook page has been set up here.)
As you may know, Councilman Tim Burgess is proposing a $25 tax per gun on firearms sales and transfers (excluding person-to-person sales) in the city of Seattle, and $0.05 tax per round on ammunition bought in Seattle. This is why this proposal is a really bad idea . . .
First, the basic arithmetic behind the proponents’ numbers is grossly unsound. The supporters of the proposal claim that it will generate $300,000-$500,000 in revenue that will be used to treat the victims of “gun violence.” These projections have absolutely no basis in reality.
Here are the very real number from Precise Shooter for the first half of FY2015:
Local firearms sales, which would be subject to $25 tax: 612 guns – total expected tax: $17,925
Total number of ammunition rounds sold: 115,160 – total expected tax @ $0.05 per round: $5,758
Assuming my store is roughly half of Seattle’s business, multiply this by four and you get the more realistic total for the year: $95,000
But this, of course, assumes that people just tighten their belts and hand over the money. There is absolutely no reason for them to do so. Seattle has two dedicated gun stores, a couple of pawn shows that dabble in firearms, and a couple of box stores that sell a few firearms.
However, just outside Seattle (within 1-3 miles from the city limits) there are plenty more:
Great American Guns
West Coast Armory
Discount Gun Sales
…and even more if you go a little bit farther to the North or South.
So there is absolutely no reason for consumers to shop in Seattle, where prices will always be significantly higher, for their gun needs. There are tons of options just outside the city.
Perhaps we could just pay the bill ourselves to keep the prices competitive?
Our store is run very efficiently. It has only two employees, and a state-of-the-art software system which tracks all the merchandise, connects to NICS for background checks, and efficiently handles all the paperwork. I wrote it myself and I am extremely proud of it.
Yet in the last six months we had gross profit of $66,000 on sales of $416,000. We earned a further $6,000 on transfer fees. We have spent $42,000 on salaries for the two employees in the store, so the net before the other operating costs for six months is $30,000. Is it reasonable to expect that we – the “firearms industry” – can afford the tax bill of $23,500 on this meager income? No. This would certainly put us under.
And, in fact, if Seattle does enact this law, Seattle gun stores would simply go out of business. My store certainly would, and I don’t think there are stores which are run more effectively than mine. Which means that not only won’t Seattle get the revenue the proponents project, it would lose the sales tax revenue that it gets from current gun sales.
During the first six months of the year, Seattle collected just over $13,000 in revenue from the sales tax collected by my store. Quadruple that and Seattle will lose just over $50,000 per year in sales tax revenue if the law is enacted. That, an a bunch of decently paying jobs (at least $15 an hour, though we pay our employees more than the city-mandated minimum).
As the proponents point out, they expect lawsuits if the law were to pass. The state of Washington has a state preemption law which prohibits municipalities from introducing more restrictive firearm regulations than already exist under the state law.
The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter.
The proponents think that the new fees would be legal because this law concerns taxes, not regulating the firearms.
However, as we have seen above, the law makes no sense fiscally. With it in place, Seattle stands to lose money, not gain it. Which means that the law is not about generating revenue, but about regulating the firearms.
Luckily, the author of the law was not very subtle about it, declaring his intent thusly:
Asked if he thought there would still be enough firearm sales taking place in the city to fund gun violence prevention programs and research if the tax were put in place, Burgess said: “We don’t know for sure.” But the revenue is not the only reason he see’s (sic) the tax bill as important.
“Municipal governments are the incubators of change,” he said, “and, if by enacting this in Seattle, we could persuade the state of Washington to impose this kind of a tax, then that would be great progress, too.”
Does Burgess think that it’s worth getting the city of Seattle into a similar legal conflict over a tax that could yield just a few hundred thousand dollars each year? He does.
“It’s worth it because the harm being inflicted is so costly and so significant,” he said. “The scope and scale of gun violence in our country is way, way out of proportion to any other Western, industrialized nation. It’s shockingly out of proportion.”
So it is about gun regulation after all — not about money — and therefore illegal under RCW 9.41.290. The above quotes will be “exhibit one” if the taxes were to pass and we would be forced to sue.
When a firearm is recovered by the police under questionable circumstances – lost, stolen, captured at the crime scene – the FBI issues a sequence of tracing requests that eventually reach the firearms dealer who sold the gun. I have been in this business for four years now, with thousands of firearms sold – and I have only been on the receiving end of a tracing request a couple of times – less that one tenth of one percent of the firearms sold by Precise Shooter end up in the wrong hands. Yet 99.9% of the customers would be stuck with the tax should this law pass.
It gets worse when it comes to ammunition. There are two types of ammunition – sporting and self-defense. Sporting ammunition is designed for target shooting and hunting small animals. Self-defense ammunition targets people and large wild animals. It is self-defense ammunition that ends up being used in crime.
What is the difference? Self defense ammunition has a hollow point bullet which looks like this:
When this bullet strikes the target, it mushrooms and tumbles in the body to inflict maximum damage, where a regular, round nosed or flat point bullet used in sporting ammunition would just pass through.
The hollow point bullets are relatively difficult to make, so all target ammunition uses either round nosed bullet, or wad cutter bullets which produce a very nice, round, paper puncher type holes which are easy to measure.
Another type of ammunition which is used almost exclusively for target practices is 22LR. This ammunition is very inexensive ($0.05-$0.07 per round), and target shooters go through hundreds of them during a single visit to the range.
Hollow point ammunition typically costs in the vicinity of $20 per 20-25 rounds. For it, a tax of $0.05 per round would constitute a 5% increase. The target ammunition ranges from $3 per 50 rounds for 22LR (almost 100% price increase due to the proposed tax) to $10 for 50 rounds (25% increase) for typical sporting 9mm cartridge.
In the last six months we sold 115,160 rounds of ammunition, of which only 2,465 rounds were self-defense hollow points suitable for use in crime – less than 2.5% of the total. Of course, none of it was probably used in actual crimes, and instead it is sitting locked in the safes of law abiding citizens.
This means that if the tax were to pass, the vast majority of the ammunition taxes – in our case, $5,600 per six months – would be paid by sportsmen for ammunition which is unsuitable for killing, and only $120 or so in tax would be due for ammunition that could be used in crime.
I don’t think anyone would be discouraged from buying ammunition for crime use because of this – but sportsmen would be strongly affected.
So in conclusion, the proposed tax would penalize sportsmen, drive firearms sales – and the associated sales tax revenue – out of town, and will have absolutely no effect on the amount of firearms or ammunition in the city because people would simply buy it elsewhere.
This law should not pass.
I don’t think your average criminal stops to think about using hollow points vs. FMJ to commit a crime. He/she most likey uses whatever is available. A pre-planning “mass shooter” might make the distinction, but they are a tiny fraction of the overall gun crime demographic.
Yeah, it was a great analysis up until that part. I laughed out loud at the part about only hollowpoints being “suitable for crime”.
A buddy of mine is a trauma surgeon in Seattle and Tacoma. He made a comment that he deals with a lot gang related shootings. I asked him what he sees more of FMJ or JHPs. He said he’s never seen a JHP come into his ER. Thugs go with whatever ammo is cheap.
My thoughts as well; but then, perhaps he’s trying to make the point to people who don’t know the difference. However, reinforcing the “evil hollowpoint bullet” theme doesn’t help in the long run.
The main reason I don’t want it to pass is the politicos on the left side of this State set precedents
for my side of the State, like I-594, and are seemingly trying to be California north.
I don’t envy Mr. Solyanik that business in a firearms hostile environment.
I was out that way a week ago, and it took 3 hours to go 36 miles to get up to the Olympic Nat’l
No, I don’t envy your situation at all.
Best wishes for a defeat of this proposal, I certainly don’t want it spreading…
“This law should not pass.”
Unfortunately, Sergey, you’re in the alternate reality of Seattle.
That law will likely pass.
As I once heard Seattle described…
“Seattle is 84 beautiful square miles surrounded by reality”.
Why did the voters of Seattle vote for this man? I’ll bet he supports homosexual marriage and Marijuana intoxication as many voters do. Was it an equal exchange homosexual marriage and Marijuana intoxication for your second amendment civil rights? I got what you deserve.
The vast majority of voters in Seattle are actively hostile to gun rights. I-594 got around 90% yes in Seattle. Those of us who care about the Constitution here are so absurdly, hilariously outnumbered that the notion that we’re getting what we “deserve” is too ridiculous to be offensive.
Yup. The I-5 corridor passed yours and our bill.
We fellow gun owners in People’s Republik of New Jersey have the same problem. Most residents of the state are actively hostile to gun rights. We are totally outnumbered. We. struggle on and work to change the paradigm but I am not optimistic.
Hence my plan to relocate just ASAP.
The Seattle area is well and truly crazily anti-constitutional (State and Federal constitutions) on the issue of guns. But why in the hell did Spokane vote for I-594 as well? Seems absurd.
Of course they’re lying. Of course it will hurt peaceful, law-abiding people. Of course it won’t reduce criminal behavior. Of course it will hurt the local economy and drive honest people out of business.
But Seattle is the center of this state’s regressive progtard hive mind, so there’s a better than even chance this stupid scheme will pass.
The only consolation is that it’s at least borderline illegal. The law says that only the state can regulate the sale, trade, and transfer of firearms. If it’s draconian enough to destroy an entire business sector in the city, is it a tax or a de facto regulation?
First, thank you Mr. Solyanik for sharing. Second, after reading it, I am led to believe that the “disposition of fetal remains” is a much more profitable business than firearm sales.
Of course the law will pass, and of course it will force shops in town to close–that is its purpose after all. See, if all the shops are eliminated, then there will be no guns in the streets, and “gun violence” will cease. Right?
I’ll bet when Seattle folk see how many guns he sold in a year, they will try and pass a law “no gun stores in Seattle”.
” they will try and pass a law “no gun stores in Seattle”.”
Isn’t that the law we’re discussing right now… essentially?
We used to have a city ordinance in my hometown of Quincy, FL, that made it unprofitable to sell handguns, so everybody shopped in the neighboring towns. At the time few blacks owned cars, so the idea was that they would find it difficult to buy handguns. A state preemption law that was passed in the 80s (thanks to Marion Hammer) ended that bit of racist nonsense. In Seattle it appears this similar effort is nothing but an attempt to drive decent folks out of business because some people disapprove of how they make an honest buck. Sue their pants off!
I already know what will go down-In Cook co.,IL there is a 25buck slush fund tax with a soon to be1% raise in sales tax(just passed).(The ammo tax failed). I will NEVER pay either and will buy in Indiana(or the internet) and transfer to nearby Will co. Sorry that Seattle dealers may go out of business. Oh and those Cook dealers mark everything way up(ESPECIALLY during the ammo famine).
The blatant transferring of gun violence guilt from the criminal onto law-abiding citizens disgust me. Crap like this shouldn’t even be allowed to see the light of day, much less be seriously considered. I’m convinced that outrageous attempts like this are incrementally helping to further erode our rights by making the anti gun conversation more commonplace and being accepted by the numb sheep of our country.
Instead, this kind of potential action should be immediately met with outrage and our screaming at the tops of our lungs. Met with a bulletproof argument depicting the impractical, unaffordable and ineffective aspects, as well as the violations of constitutional rights.
Fighting intolerance on the right level is the most effective method of accomplishing the goal and if it can’t be preemptive action, then it needs to be immediate and put the pressure right back to the source to the point of being overwhelmed.
I’ll say it should pass so long as every single car bought comes with a 3,000 dollar tax to treat the victims of drunk drivers. Because apparently buying an item makes you responsible for how others use it, right prog fascists?
Send a nasty letter to the Seattle City Counsel, they earned it. The progressive Seattle base is too big for their britches. They absolutely believe they need to be the authority over people, not letting any Rights stand in their way. They have zero respect for the foundational reasons for the USA and clearly do not understand them.
Tim Burgess has a plan which is simple, run all firearm business out of Seattle proper, it’s that simple. What about prohibition Tim, how about we take down your wine store? People like Tim the snooty know it all and the progressive network of Seattle WA are the scourge of or current society. There is no reason to be nice to them, that bus left the station.
I guarantee that the response to this letter from the Seattle city council would amount to a round of blank stares, and a “thank you, next please.”
The facts or logic do not matter – there is an agenda to be maintained.
It simply doesn’t matter. There are few gun stores left in Seattle and the those that remain aren’t much. I go to Adventure Sports for most of my firearm needs where John the owner is a hunter and knows what he is talking about. Yeah a Fudd to you gamer boys. Too bad.
Not to mention, the proposed tax also represents an unconstitutional poll tax.
According the the Seattle Times, this law is “a done deal”, with the City Council and the Mayor supporting it. That’s the bad news.
The better news is that WA state law takes precedence over any city laws (can’t think of the actual term for that right now).
But the bottom line that both City Council and the Mayor want is, “And, in fact, if Seattle does enact this law, Seattle gun stores would simply go out of business. “…that’s what they want. They don’t really care about the income (although I’m sure they would welcome it), and they don’t care about it being overturned in the court by WA state law…they just want it to be in effect long enough to drive the few remaining gun shops in Seattle out of business. Period.
I will just say to the owner of the shop: if your software is really that good sell it! I think you will stand to make much more from it than a small gun shop.