State Attorney General Bob Ferguson says Seattle’s new gun-sales tax is legal. The city isn’t releasing information yet about how much money the tax is bringing in.
A statewide elected official has weighed in on Seattle’s new gun-sales tax, which took effect Jan. 1.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson sided with the city against the National Rifle Association this week, saying the tax on gun and ammunition sales complies with state law.
The Democrat filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday with the state appeals court considering the NRA’s challenge to a lower-court ruling.
In December, a King County Superior Court judge rejected the lawsuit against Seattle’s tax that the NRA had filed with other gun-rights groups, gun sellers and two local gun owners.
The NRA and other plaintiffs claim the tax charged to gun sellers of $25 per gun and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition is in reality a regulatory fee and therefore violates a state law banning cities from regulating firearms.
Ferguson’s brief says he agrees with the lower court that the tax is truly a tax because its use is to raise revenue, not to regulate or pay for the regulation of guns.
Under an ordinance championed by Councilmember Tim Burgess last year, the city is using proceeds from the tax to fund gun-violence research and prevention programs.
Burgess said the tax would raise an estimated $300,000 to $500,000 annually, and the city has now received a limited number of first-quarter returns from gun sellers, a Department of Finance and Administrative Services spokeswoman said.
But the city isn’t releasing any information yet about the gun and ammo taxes it’s collected, spokeswoman Julie Moore said.
Individual tax-return documents are exempt from public disclosure. Due to the limited number of first-quarter returns from gun sellers, the city believes disclosing aggregate information at this time could reveal individual taxpayer information, Moore said.
There were 22 licensed gun dealers in the city when officials developing Burgess’ ordinance checked, including pawnshops, sporting-good stores and people helping conduct internet sales.
There were only two stores dedicated to guns, and both have since left Seattle.
Outdoor Emporium in Sodo paid about $21,000 in first-quarter gun and ammo taxes, owner Mike Coombs said. He said he doesn’t think the tax will bring in as much as Burgess predicted.
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Coombs said he hopes some of the revenue is used to educate people about firearms.
Gov. Jay Inslee in January directed Ferguson’s office to analyze enforcement practices with an eye toward strengthening background checks on gun buyers.
The governor also ordered state and local agencies and the University of Washington to collect and review data on gun deaths and injuries — and to recommend strategies for reducing them.
Inslee hasn’t commented on Seattle’s tax, a spokeswoman said.