Gun Store Owners Say Proposed Tax Will Put Them Out Of Business

City council members in Tacoma, Washington are expected to approve a new tax on firearms and ammunition this week, and local gun store owners say the effects will be disastrous to their business.

“I’m certain I will close,” said Mary Davies, of Mary’s Pistols in Tacoma. “It’s the principle that people will have to pay for what they think is their right. You would not pay a tax to vote, pay a tax for free speech.”

No, you would not, but unfortunately city leaders like Councilman Ryan Mello believe that by taxing your rights, the city can somehow fight violent crime. Mello’s plan would add a $25 tax to every firearm sold, along with a tax on every round of ammunition; two cents per round for .22 caliber and under, and five cents per round on every other caliber.

“I don’t make a lot of money per gun. The $25 per gun would literally price me out of business,” said Dan Davies, Mary’s husband and co-owner of Mary’s Pistols. “This ordinance threatens my livelihood, my family, and my friends.”

Supporters of the tax say it will raise about $40,000 each year to help pay for “gun violence prevention efforts”, but when nearby Seattle instituted a similar tax a few years ago, it actually raised far less money than the city had predicted.

In selling his gun tax to the public, [Seattle City Council member Tim] Burgess predicted it would generate between $300,000 and $500,000 annually. The money would be used to study the root causes of gun violence in hopes of reducing the costs to taxpayers.

Seattle officials refuse to say how much the tax brought in the first year, only giving the number “under $200,000.” Gun rights groups have sued to get the exact amount.

But Mike Coombs, owner of Outdoor Emporium, the last large gun dealer left in Seattle, said the actual tax revenue is almost certainly just over $100,000, a figure based on information he says the city shared with his lawyers.

That was back in 2017. The latest figures for 2018 show that Seattle brought in about $93,000 with its tax. At the same time, violent crime has actually increased in the city. What’s declined are the number of gun stores inside the Seattle city limits. Even before the tax went into effect, gun store owners were moving their shops to the suburbs to avoid the high taxes. In fact, in the first year that Seattle’s tax was in place, about 80% of the tax revenue generated came from a single store.

More than 80 percent of that was contributed by Sodo’s Outdoor Emporium, whose owner has complained of plummeting sales since the tax was imposed in January 2016.

Mike Coombs, Outdoor Emporium’s owner, believes the city is being disingenuous in its efforts to pay for gun violence research.

“We’re already doing (gun) training,” Coombs said, in addition to his business’s efforts with Seattle Children’s Hospital to distribute gun lock boxes. “The city doesn’t care about the training with firearms. They just want them gone.”

He said his sales dropped 15 percent since the tax took effect but that his store in Fife did not see the same decline.

Now Tacoma is getting ready to wage a financial war on gun stores just like Seattle did a few years ago. It won’t make the city any safer, but it will price a right above some individuals’ ability to pay, and will likely cause some stores to either close or move to a location beyond the grabbing fingers of the Tacoma taxman.