The National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation are suing the city of Seattle, Washington, over a new “gun violence tax,” a tax on all sales of firearms and ammunition created to help pay for costs of gun violence.
The suit was filed Aug. 24 in King County, Washington, by the plaintiffs as well as two gun owners and two gun shops, The Associated Press reported. The suit alleges the tax is not enforceable under current state law, which prohibits local governments from creating laws that regulate firearms unless authorized by the state.
“The ordinance serves only as a piece of propaganda, because the ordinance’s mandates are legally unenforceable,” the lawsuit reads. “The state of Washington has the exclusive right to regulate the sale of firearms in Washington, and cities may not enact local laws or regulations related to the sale of firearms.”
Earlier this month, the Seattle City Council approved the tax, along with a measure that requires gun owners to file a report if their weapon is lost or stolen. The plaintiffs did not challenge this part of the city’s regulations.
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The city argues that the right to increase fees on firearms and ammunition is allowed under Seattle’s taxing authority, according to the city’s lawyer, Pete Holmes. City Council President Tim Burgess, a Democrat, agreed with the city’s legal position.
“The NRA does this all across the country whenever they feel that anyone is trying to regulate firearms, and that’s not what we’re doing here,” Burgess said. “We’re using the city’s taxing authority, which is granted to us by the Washington Constitution and the Legislature.”
If the courts side with the city, the tax will take effect in January 2016. A $25 charge will be placed on each purchase of a firearm sold in the city, and an additional 5 cents for each round of ammunition sold.
Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, released a statement in defense of his organization’s position.
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“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 (in 2009),” Gottlieb said. “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.”