The Shooter’s Log wants to inform our readers that two gun owners, two retailers, and three national gun groups have sued the City of Seattle over adoption of a retail sales tax on guns and ammunition. They are challenging the City of Seattle’s recently approved sales tax of $25 on each firearm sold and five cents for each round of ammunition (two cents for .22 caliber).
The city ordinance was labeled a “gun violence tax,” but the City Council nevertheless approved the measure on Aug. 10 and Mayor Ed Murray signed it last week. The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, names as defendants Mayor Ed Murray, the city’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services, and that department’s director, Glen Lee. See our previous coverage of the issue here.
The suit asserts that Washington State’s 33-year-old state preemption law does not allow cities, counties or political subdivisions to enact laws relating to firearms, unless state law authorizes those local regulations.
The local plaintiffs include two individuals: Philip Watson, “… an individual residing in Lakewood, Washington,” who intends to continue purchasing ammunition in Seattle, and Ray Carter, “an individual residing in West Seattle” who will not be able to continue purchasing guns and ammo “if the firearm and ammunition tax is imposed and the cost is passed on to the consumer.” Other local plaintiffs include two of the city’s firearms retailers—Outdoor Emporium and Precise Shooter LLC. According to the lawsuit, Outdoor Emporium is the largest firearm and ammunition retailer in Seattle. The suit says, “Outdoor Emporium retails firearms and ammunition to consumers, approximately 70% of whom are non-Seattle residents. Outdoor Emporium also wholesales ammunition to other retailers in the Seattle area.” The second business plaintiff is Precise Shooter, LLC, which, according to the lawsuit, is “… a retailer of firearms and ammunition that specializes in serving sportsmen and women seeking products for highly accurate target shooting, as used in shooting sports, competitive events, ranges, and hunting.” According to a release by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), it and the NRA have previously cooperated in lawsuits against New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle, the last suit overturning a previous attempt by then-Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and his successor, Mike McGinn, to prohibit legally carried firearms in city park facilities. This legal action marks the first time NSSF has joined with SAF and NRA in a lawsuit.
“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.” “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. It’s a shame to see such a waste of public resources on issues the courts have already ruled to be unconstitutional.” “We’ve been down this path before with Seattle when we sued them and won, knocking out their attempt to ban guns in city park facilities,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. “The city does not seem to understand that no matter how they wrap this package, it’s still a gun control law and it violates Washington’s long-standing preemption statute.”