WA High Court Upholds Seattle Gun, Ammo Tax

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The Washington Supreme Court upheld Seattle’s tax on gun and ammunition sales, rejecting a challenge by the National Rifle Association and others, the Seattle Times reports. The city has been imposing the tax of $25 per firearm and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition for more than a year and a half. Opponents said the tax violates a Washington law that bans cities from regulating firearms, reserving that authority for the state. Seattle claims the tax is legal because taxation differs from regulation.

The majority in an 8-1 ruling said the city’s ordinance imposes a tax, rather than a regulation, on firearms “because its primary purpose is to raise revenue for the public benefit.” Justice Debra Stephens said that, “While courts should be dubious of regulations masquerading as taxes (and vice versa),” the opponents of Seattle’s tax offered “no convincing evidence that the ordinance has a regulatory purpose or intent.” Opponents said the point of the tax is to drive gun sellers out of the city. Advocates said the intent is to raise money for gun-violence research. The tax raised less than $200,000 during its first year. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation called the ruling “a loss for the rule of law, firearms dealers and gun owners living in Seattle” and also “a slap in the face to the Washington Legislature.”

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