After weeks of delays and several amendments, the Tacoma City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved a new $25 tax on each firearm sold in the city, as well as additional taxes on every round of ammunition. The new tax will take effect next July, and is expected to raise about $30,000 for the city. The money will supposedly be used for programs to “prevent gun violence”, and one amendment to the ordinance recommends (but does not require) the funds be used for a “gun buyback” program.
According to the Tacoma News-Tribune, gun owners and opponents of the tax were out in force during the city council meeting, but their concerns fell on deaf ears.
The council chambers was standing-room only the night of the vote. Many spoke out against the tax during public comment.
Some worried that the tax would only hurt responsible and low-income gun owners and those trying to protect themselves and won’t decrease crime. They asked for council to instead asked for stricter enforcement of laws already on the books.
“Everyday firearms protect life. It’s our personal protection,” Jane Milhans, a local certified firearm instructor, said during public comment.
Employees from Aero Precision, a manufacturer of firearms in Tacoma that employs more than 400, came to speak in opposition.“This type of regressive tax really impacts our ability to be competitive,” Aero Precision CEO Scott Dover said during public comment.
One Aero Precision employee said no one from the council had ever reached out prior to the tax proposal.
“We were a ghost to all of you. No one even knew we existed,” he said.
The owner of Aero Precision had expressed concern that the tax would eventually apply to firearms manufacturers as well as guns and ammo sold at retail, but one amendment approved by the council clarifies that the tax does not apply to “parts and components” of a firearm (at least for now).
Council members noted that violence has been increasing in Tacoma, and claim that the tax will help turn things around. However, the city of Seattle has had an identical tax on firearms and ammunition in place since 2015, and violent crime’s continued to go up even with the tax in place. That’s because this tax does absolutely nothing to address violent crime or violent criminals. Instead, as speaker after speaker told council members, it’s simply an attack on legal gun owners.
“There is a scheme here to impose a tax on the exercise of the Second Amendment,” said one speaker against the tax. “Shame on you, shame on you. You’re wrong, you know you’re wrong, and to hell with you.”
“The only way to reduce gun violence is to enforce the laws that are currently on the books,” said another speaker against the tax.
While Councilman Ryan Mello, the sponsor of the tax, claims it’s not a punitive measure aimed at legal gun owners, one resident speaking in support of the tax said that’s exactly what it’s about.
“We need to discourage the purchase of guns and ammunition. That is an answer,” countered another speaker who favored tax.
Now that the tax has been approved in both Tacoma and Seattle, expect gun control groups to push the suburban towns surrounding the cities into doing the same. Unfortunately, the Washington State Supreme Court has already ruled that the tax increase doesn’t violate the state’s firearms preemption law, so any legal challenge to Tacoma’s guns and ammo tax is likely to face long odds in the courts.
The likely result of this tax increase is simple: fewer gun stores in Tacoma, and no impact on violent crime. The city council members did approve an amendment Tuesday evening to conduct a review of the tax at some point in the future to determine if the law should be repealed, but that seems like more of an attempt to portray themselves as “moderate” than a real effort to ensure that the tax could be taken off the table in the future. The Tacoma City Council members don’t need to look any further than Seattle to see the future results: gun stores closing or moving to the suburbs, dramatically less tax revenue than was promised, and violent criminals unaware and unaffected by the city’s new sin tax on the Second Amendment.