Tacoma City Council passes gun tax modeled after Seattle

Tacoma City Council passes gun tax modeled after Seattle.

Update on Nov. 12, 2019: Tacoma City Councilmembers voted Tuesday evening and passed the gun tax based on the Seattle gun tax.

The tax will go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Council was originally expected to vote on this last month, but concerns were raised, so amendments were made and the vote was pushed back two weeks.

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Our original report from Oct. 28, 2019 below: 

Tacoma City Councilmembers are voting on a proposal for a gun tax based on the Seattle gun tax that started in 2016.

The proposal calls for a $25 tax on retail firearms, a 2-cent tax per round of ammunition that is .22 caliber or less and a 5-cent tax for larger ammunition.

“Revenue generated from this tax will be used to offset a portion of the impact and cost that gun violence has on our community by being directed toward programs that promote public safety, prevent gun violence, target youth and young adult violence prevention, and other programs intended to reduce violence and promote community healing,” a portion of the proposed ordinance reads.

The council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Tuesday.

Local shops, such as Surplus Ammo, said they wouldn’t be able to compete.

“The store will be closed by Jan. 1. We will close the doors, so there will be 11 people unemployed,” said Surplus Ammo manager Bruce Smith.

The move could also impact Aero Precision. The Tacoma-based company is one of the largest gun manufactures in the country.

“This is our 25th year in Tacoma and we feel this is way outside the bounds of what should be done,” CEO Scott Dover said.

Dover said the tax could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

“If it came down to it, we would consider all options, including moving,” he said. “Personally I think city council should be held to a higher standard. If this ordinance goes into place, jobs will move out, the revenue obviously won’t be there, and then what?”

The ordinance calls for the Tacoma city manager to bring the council recommendations within 75 calendar days that do three things:

  • "Assist and empower our local communities faced with gun violence, potentially in partnership with other agencies and entities, to help them heal from the damage caused by gun violence in our community, and to develop strategies together to further reduce youth and young adult gun violence."
  • "Make recommendations for programming with youth and young adults, age 18-30, to reduce gun violence with concepts such as community court or restorative justice and gang prevention and gang violence reduction for individuals not in a felony situation, after consultation with partners."
  • "Any other recommendations to reduce gun violence in our community, including state and federal legislative priorities and other measures to be led locally to improve gun safety and ensure that guns do not get into the wrong hands."

The Tacoma tax numbers are the same taxes as in Seattle. However, since the Seattle gun tax started in 2016 there has not been a significant decrease in major crimes, according to department crime statistics.

Those statistics show there were overall 19 Seattle homicides in 2016, and that number increased to 28 in 2017 and 32 in 2018. Overall aggravated assaults, including crimes that involved guns, increased from 2,188 reports in 2016 to 2,492 in 2017 and 2,698 last year.

There were 239 rapes reported in 2016 – including cases where guns were not involved – and that number increased to 255 in 2017 and 273 in 2018.

“It’s really misguided," Dover said of Tacoma's proposed gun tax. "No one’s more concerned about violence in our cities than the firearms industry. We’re just looking for city council to work with us and come up with a real solution."

Statistics also show Seattle’s gun buyback efforts also did not lower gun crimes here. The first buyback was done in 1992, and after a two-year study authorities found "no statistically significant change in monthly average of firearm-related robberies, assaults or homicides."

Dr. Fred Rivara of Harborview Medical Center was one of the authors of that study and told KIRO 7 in 2013 that data doesn't link the gun buybacks lower crime or the rate of violent death.

However, Seattle paid for another gun buyback that year, offering $100 gift cards for smaller guns and $200 gift cards for larger guns, including AR-15s. More than 700 overall guns were collected, but there was not a clear link to a significant drop in gun crimes.

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