A Tacoma City Council member is proposing a gun tax based on Seattle’s model.

Ryan Mello proposed a firearms and ammunition tax in a letter to the council Thursday.

The tax, based on Seattle’s, would be $25 tax per firearm sold at retail, in addition to $0.02 per round of ammunition .22-caliber or less, and $0.05 per round of other ammunition sold at retail.

“This isn’t just about mass shootings,” Mello told The News Tribune on Friday. “Gun violence happens in urban centers like Tacoma all the time, and they’re really ripping communities apart.”

A third tier would include a higher tax on high-velocity ammunition, or more military-style ammunition such as “hollow point bullets.”

“They’re designed to pierce through body armor with the intent to kill somebody,” Mello said.


Exemptions would be made for persons who sell no more than one firearm or 50  rounds of ammunition per quarter, as well as an exemption for law enforcement.

The funds from the tax would be directed toward violence-prevention programs in the city, Mello said. Part of the request asks the city manager to bring forward recommendations in the next 75 days.

Mello mentioned partnering with Pierce County, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and Rising Above Influence (RAIN) to strategize potential programs like community court and gang-violence reduction.

Mello’s request comes after recent shootings, including several in Tacoma this month. Mello’s letter was also signed by Mayor Victoria Woodards and Councilmember Catherine Ushka.

“We talk about gun violence a lot and I know my colleagues are eager to find solutions,” Mello said. “This is about continuing a serious and deliberative conversion.”

The council will discuss the topic at a study session meeting on Tuesday. If an ordinance is adopted by the council, the tax would be implemented on Jan. 1, 2020.


Mello said the proposed tax is not about punishing lawful gun owners.

“This is about making our community safer,” he said.

Seattle collected $93,000 from its gun-and-ammunition tax in 2017, down from about $104,000 collected in 2016, when the tax took effect.

When it was adopted in 2015, then-Councilmember Tim Burgess said the city projected the tax would raise $300,000 to $500,000 a year.

The Seattle City Council established the tax to fund gun-violence research at Harborview Medical Center, saying treatment of gunshot victims there costs taxpayers many millions of dollars each year.

The city waited to spend the revenue, because of a lawsuit by local gun owners and gun sellers, plus the National Rifle Association, the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

While the lawsuit was active, city officials kept the tax money in a holding account. To support the Harborview program while there was no tax revenue, the council allocated money from the city’s general fund.

Material from The Seattle Times archives was included in this report.