Seattle Battles The NRA And Is Winning
The City of Seattle has found a unique way to combat gun crimes while side-stepping the power of the NRA.
The NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute of Legal Action (ILA), has successfully lobbied 43 states to enact “preemption” laws -statutes which bar cities like Seattle from passing laws restricting the sale or use of firearms. As The Daily Beast explains “It’s a short statute the gun rights lobby writes and then muscles through state legislatures, says no other body, such as the municipal authorities in cities like Seattle, can regulate firearms. The NRA’s Institute of Legal Action (ILA) churns out the statutes and lawmakers in state after state are happy to oblige.”
The City of Seattle attempted to bypass this law in 2009 when the city council passed a regulation banning firearms in city playgrounds and parks. The NRA, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the Washington Arms Collectors, and five individual plaintiffs filed suit; and the case eventually worked its way to the state Court of Appeals where the law was struck down in 2011 – not under the Second Amendment, but due to the state’s preemption statute. The state Supreme Court refused to review the case in 2012 effectively upholding the lower court decision.
In 2015 the City of Seattle devised “audaciously creative way” to combat gun violence in the city, bypassing the Second Amendment protection on guns and the state preemption law.
On August 10, 2015 the City Council approved measures taxing the sales of firearms and ammunition.
Two weeks later the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Second Amendment Foundation filed suit, claiming the measure violated the Second Amendment and state preemption.
“Once again, anti-gun activists in Seattle have chosen to violate the Washington State Constitution and trample upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, adding: “They tried to enact similar regulations back in 2009 and lost. It’s a shame to see such a waste of public resources on issues the courts have already ruled to be a clear violation of state law.”
However, the measure passed its first legal test in December when King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Rubinson ruled that the city of Seattle has the “constitutional and legislative authority to impose taxes” – authority that is independent from the ability to regulate firearms.
The tax itself went into effect on January 1st of this year imposing a $25 tax on every firearm sold in the city and a two cent tax on .22 caliber ammunition and a five cent tax for all other ammo.
The NRA and the other plaintiffs filed an appeal in state court, clearly indicating that they are not seeking relief pursuant the Second Amendment.
City attorney Pete Holmes told The Daily Beast in a phone call that “Everybody assumes this is about the Second Amendment, but it’s not, and that’s the story.”
“No one is telling you that you can’t own or buy a gun,” said Holmes, adding “We believe we are in a safe haven. We’re not regulating guns; we’re simply adding a tax.”
The money generated by the tax is slated to go towards “compiling data about gun violence and putting targeted intervention programs in place,” according to The Daily Beast.
City Council President Tim Burgess, a former Seattle police officer, estimates the tax will generate about $300,000 to $500,000 a year.