Read the ruling: Judge says city has the right to tax guns/bullets

The two documents above (and here) comprise a county judge’s ruling today that the city is within its rights to tax guns and ammunition, despite what opponents argued three months ago. Here’s how the city announced today’s court decision:

The City of Seattle has the legal authority to enact a $25 per firearm tax on retailers to mitigate the costs of gun violence, King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson ruled Tuesday.

“The tax imposed by the Ordinance under the City’s constitutional and legislative authority to impose taxes, which is separate from its regulatory authority under its police power, is not preempted by RCW 9.41.290,” Judge Robinson ruled, dashing the NRA’s attempt to overturn the law.

Her ruling aligns with the position argued by the City that “The Ordinance does not limit any person’s right to purchase, sell, acquire, transfer, discharge, or transport firearms or ammunition.”

“I’m gratified by Judge Robinson’s thorough analysis, and congratulate our team of attorneys who argued the case before her last Friday,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said Tuesday. “The NRA needs to butt out of Seattle’s efforts to enact sensible gun safety legislation.”

“The Court got the law absolutely right,” said William Abrams of Steptoe & Johnson, who led the litigation team and appeared for the City pro bono. “Seattle’s right to fund research and education on gun violence was upheld. This time the NRA was unsuccessful in trying to block research on gun violence. The real winners are the citizens of Seattle, whose government can move forward to fund important research on this public health epidemic that affects everyone.”

In a Seattle summer marred by random gunfire, the City Council unanimously approved, and Mayor Ed Murray signed, the ordinance that, come January, will levy a $25 tax on businesses for each firearm sold at retail within City limits to provide a sustained local revenue source for research and prevention programs. In addition, the City will impose a 2-cent tax for every round of .22 caliber ammunition sold and a 5-cent tax for every other round of ammunition sold. A companion ordinance mandates that lost or stolen firearms be reported to the Seattle Police Department.

Of the ruling, the ordinance’s sponsor, Councilmember Tim Burgess, said, “We established the gun violence tax as a legitimate and appropriate way to raise revenue for gun safety research and prevention programs. The NRA and its allies always oppose these common sense steps to shine light on the gun violence epidemic. They have blocked funding for basic gun safety research at the federal level for decades. But in Seattle it is different. Judge Robinson saw through the NRA’s distorted efforts to put gun industry profits ahead of public safety.”

Welcoming the ruling, Mayor Murray said, “Guns now kill more people in the United States than automobiles. Our community will not stand by as so many in our city, particularly young people of color, continue to pay the highest price for inaction on gun violence at the national and state level. For too long, we have had insufficient research and data on gun violence in Seattle to help guide our response. We will now have critical funding to advance our work on gun violence research and prevention.”

Go here to read what the city passed.

60 Replies to "Read the ruling: Judge says city has the right to tax guns/bullets"

  • Marty December 22, 2015 (8:18 pm)

    Money should come from violators, not honest citizens who legally own guns.

  • Bradley December 22, 2015 (8:56 pm)

    @Marty: Amen! I will just buy guns and ammunition outside of Seattle. The only good gun store in the City, Outdoor Emporium, will probably just move a ways south to the northern tip of Tukwila or into Burien. The other store up in North Seattle has already been in the process of moving a couple of blocks and just across 145th, outside of this dysfunctional cItY cLoWnCiL’s corrupt reach.

  • LivesInWS December 22, 2015 (9:04 pm)

    Ideally, yes, if we could tell them apart. But at least this tax will help fund research that may lead to being able to tell them apart.

    And this tax is far more specific than taxing people for schools they/their family don’t use, though that argument is tangential and compares apples to oranges.

    If you already legally own a gun, the amount of tax is paltry.

    “tax of $25 per gun and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition” Seattle Times 12/22/2015

    How many rounds does one need to hunt?

    “the point of the ordinance is to raise money to fund research and programs to curb gun violence, such as a gunshot-victim-intervention program — not to discourage the sale of firearms or impose gun control.” Seattle Times 12/22/2015

    Happy Yule!

  • Born on Alki59 December 22, 2015 (9:06 pm)

    Sadly Marty, that’s not how Seattle works. This will likely open the floodgates for all sorts of new taxes and fees in Seattle, while driving out great businesses such as Outdoor Emporium. Very sad attempt to fix a problem at the publics expense, while violent criminals convicted of crimes involving guns serve little time thanks to our wonderful revolving door justice system.

  • KT December 22, 2015 (9:16 pm)

    “..raise revenue for gun safety research and prevention programs…”
    I can’t wait to see how many $$$ this actually raises and what research and prevention programs result. Would seem to me that the Seattle PD ought to be able to look at gun related deaths in this city and tell answer a lot of these questions. Or hire a consultant like they do for everything else.

  • TheKing December 22, 2015 (9:35 pm)

    This tax will be put into place by the folks knowing it will put honest owners out of business. Shame on you for imposing personal beliefs on others’ livelihood.

  • Uber December 22, 2015 (9:37 pm)

    this will most likely be overturned on appeal;

    um, it’s already illegal to hunt in Seattle, don’tcha know

    and in the unlikely event it’s not overturned, revenues will be approximately zero, but it will as intended criminalize otherwise law abiding citizens who for example, order ammunition online

  • Leelee December 22, 2015 (9:39 pm)

    U own a gun, u pay for the responsibility. You’re a member of this society.

    I think of many of these violent criminals, and how many probably had no warm, loving home to go to growing up. How can we expect them to pay for the ills of society they have been unjustly bred to perpetuate? U own a killing machine, the LEAST u can do is pay a few cents extra for the “freedom” u insist upon to own a WEAPON that assists in more easily allowing crime and violence

  • seattletimebandit December 22, 2015 (9:55 pm)

    All I can say is that IF I decided to buy a gun, I wouldn’t buy it in Seattle. I’d prefer to spend the gas money to drive outside the city limits just to make sure the city “leaders” don’t benefit from yet another unreasonable taxation scheme. I’m pretty sure that most law abiding people considering a gun purchase would do the same. And if there were no longer any gun shops left in Seattle, then what’s the point of the ordinance? Oh, yeah, silly me: feel-good governance.

  • Bradley December 22, 2015 (10:00 pm)

    Uh, LeeLee, we (including you) have a Constitutional right to own a gun(s) (or “killing machines”, as you refer to them). We don’t need a license or permission from the government to exercise any of our rights in the Bill of Rights. Owning a gun is not a privilege like driving a car or flying a plane. How would you take a tax on each email you send or comment you post in social media? Or a tax on the music you listen to or each kitchen knife you buy? We already pay handsomely for firearms and ammunition and our concealed pistol licenses, etc. Also, if you own a car, you own a “killing machine”, as well (see recent Las Vegas vehicular attack).

  • rob December 22, 2015 (10:09 pm)

    have a hard time seeing the point of this. only one store in the entire city that does any significant business, and this will simply cause it to shunt its inventory to the other location in Fife. this is just a feel good political stunt that will accomplish nothing but wasting court time.

  • ltfd December 22, 2015 (10:17 pm)

    Political chest-thumping by Seattle’s silly council. Nothing more.

  • they December 22, 2015 (10:40 pm)

    Sadly gun violence has nothing to due with guns and everything to do with policy’s developed through the years by the same sources that now want to impose taxes fines and restrictions. I mean come on we the people can’t be this ????

  • TheKing December 22, 2015 (10:42 pm)

    So the message here is they will help make the public safer….only if they can tax it.

  • cj December 22, 2015 (10:44 pm)

    I agree with the decision, sorry.

  • dsa December 22, 2015 (10:59 pm)

    I am not a fan of most guns, but this ordinance is just plain wrong.

  • sixbuck December 22, 2015 (11:08 pm)

    More liberal feel-good do-nothingism!

  • Johnny December 22, 2015 (11:31 pm)

    I’d like to see the statistics detailed on gun violence in Seattle. How many are legally owned guns vs black market guns. Take a guess. How will you stop illegal gun violence? Not my tax sorry. Ill buy outside the city. Another useless law that does nothing. Oh wait it pays for research lol. That’ll fix it!

  • Marty December 22, 2015 (11:36 pm)

    Bradley: The Outdoor Emporium has a “sister store” named Sportco. It is located in Fife and is sure to see an increase in business.

  • moneygrab December 23, 2015 (6:42 am)

    Can anyone explain specifically what this ” research ” is. If I gave you a couple million, what exactly would the money be spent on? Expert consultants?, billboards?, maypoles?

  • Rick December 23, 2015 (6:56 am)

    Lived here for 46 years and have owned a business here for 36. I won’t spend any more money in this town than I absolutely have to. I can’t support this silly city anymore. Will leave ASAP. Bring on the judgemental, self righteous sanctimony, I can handle it. I’ll post my forwarding address if it makes you feel better.

  • Brian December 23, 2015 (7:24 am)

    To all of you claiming that you’ll “just buy your bullets outside of the city”, I hope you realize that’s a purposefully an expected effect of this legislation. It’s one more step towards making guns and ammunition less readily available directly in our densely populated areas. Thanks for playing.

  • WS since '66 December 23, 2015 (7:29 am)

    I wholeheartedly and completely agree with the Judge. For those complaining about this being a burden, just how much ammo do you buy on a regular basis where this makes it a burden? There have been recent studies done showing states which have undertaken some form of responsible gun control have fewer deaths per capita. Here is just one of them

    Lastly, why hasn’t anyone questioned the wisdom of the NRA, for decades, fighting a study on gun violence? What are they afraid the research will turn up?

    So happy I live in Seattle!

  • Dale December 23, 2015 (7:32 am)

    1.1 million people in the US have perished at the hands of a gun since John Lennon was killed in 1980. Thats all forms, suicide, homicide, accidental discharge. Gun shops are not exempt from tax surcharges no more then a car rental company, a Hotel/Motel etc.

  • nachobeaver December 23, 2015 (8:03 am)

    the irony is..there is less then a handfull of gun shops left in seattle anyways and 2 are big chains which likely wont feel the hit cause they make up for it in other citys.. yes its sad to see the mom and pop gun shops close or move out of city limits but i highly doubt seattle is gonna get any massive amount of funds from this deal!! it just sounds like a ploy to get rid of the remaing shops left in i have a feeling it will get overturned😜it always does

  • Born on Alki59 December 23, 2015 (8:10 am)

    @Rick, you are not alone. We are moving away next year after nearly 60 years in WS.
    IMHO, Seattle’s socialist thinking council seems to value equality more than liberty. But, we do have nice rainbow crosswalks to make it all seem better.

  • Rcl December 23, 2015 (8:21 am)

    More taxes for guns and ammo and also ALL gun owners should have to pay monthly insurance on each gun they own like car insurance

  • get over it December 23, 2015 (8:23 am)

    I think everyone should throw their guns in the harbor in protest! Seattle gun party! I’ll pop the corn! Maybe a few beers? (which is, um, taxed because it kills people) I feel SO sorry for gun owners. Oppressed! THE HORROR!

  • Seattle Tax Again December 23, 2015 (8:30 am)

    I would normally say great! Except for the fact that Seattle feels it should tax everything. I don’t like guns nor have I ever felt the need to own one. However, I think that Seattle needs to MANAGE the taxes already being charged , not through the people who are already paying exorbitant amounts of taxes in the first place. Doesn’t look good for gun owners because the people of Seattle love taxes :(

  • eastside commuter December 23, 2015 (8:33 am)

    Perhaps they’ll use the tax dollars to continue reducing four lane roads to two lanes on major thoroughfares in West Seattle to prevent gun owners from travelling to Fife to make their gun & ammo purchases!

  • wetone December 23, 2015 (8:55 am)

    One more program (tax)put in place that will cost more to operate than money brought in, while doing nothing to stop any crime gun related or not. I’d be more worried about getting hit by a car or bus than being hit by a bullet, especially by the drivers I see in WS these days. Real problem is mental illness and gang activity in this city. That’s what city council and Mayor Murray should be focusing on. But that gets away from all the PC crap…..

  • smokeycretin9 December 23, 2015 (9:04 am)

    Gun and ammo shops outside the city limits are cheering!

  • Mr E December 23, 2015 (9:38 am)

    Let me know if any of the libertarians threatening to leave the city limits need help packing.

  • JanS December 23, 2015 (10:43 am)

    ya know…as a woman, I can tell you that women countrywide don’t like paying extra special taxes on feminine hygiene products (didn’t know that, did ya?). And they don’t effing kill. Feel bad for gun owners? Not on your damned life. Suck it up and get over it. You ain’t all that!

    Hearing the above from guys sure does get tiresome, like it’s going after your manhood or something :(

  • jWESTFOO December 23, 2015 (11:03 am)

    There is no sound logic behind supporting this taxation if you actually look into the facts behind it. It won’t generate any usable revenue because the only remaining businesses will leave. It won’t keep guns out of the hands of criminals because they get their guns and ammo illegally anyways. What this legislation WILL accomplish is putting honest shops out of business and making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to buy what they legally have a right to buy. Listen, everyone hates gun violence and everyone would like to see an end to it. But focusing on the inanimate object (gun) instead of the environmental and cultural factors that foster violence isn’t the answer.

  • kris December 23, 2015 (11:39 am)

    We have to start somewhere to stop the insane use of guns in this country. This is great news for the New Year !!!!!

  • clark5080 December 23, 2015 (1:01 pm)

    Kris have you ever looked at the stats on “gun violence” Here is a good article

  • chemist December 23, 2015 (1:06 pm)

    JanS, that’s not a great comparison on the type of tax.
    Firearms and ammo sales are subject to sales tax (although 594 did create a sales tax exemption for intrastate gun sales) and even a special federal excise tax. They’re also subject to the new Seattle tax passed by the council. Feminine hygiene products are not specifically exempted from sales taxes (only a few states do that) nor do they have any “$0.05 per pad/tampon”-type special tax.

  • Jeff December 23, 2015 (1:38 pm)

    @WS since 66

    I buy 1,000 rds of various calibers of ammunition every couple of months. Of course I don’t buy it in a store, I order it online in bulk, so this tax would never affect me even if I lived within Seattle city limits.

    That amount of ammo would probably raise the hair on most Seattleites, but so long as the political left in this country continues trying to tax and legislate one of my favorite hobbies into the ground, you’d better well be sure that I will do whatever I can to save money on ammo purchases, so that I can continue enjoying this hobby for years to come.

    So, if you want people like myself who do a lot of recreational target shooting to continue purchasing thousands of rounds a year, keep on doing what you’re doing.

    As for your comments on the NRA restricting “research into gun violence,” this is a complete myth. Congress restricted CDC from doing so in the 1990s, after the CDC admitted they were directed to advocate for Clinton administrations’ gun control measures. The NRA was involved in lobbying congress, you are correct, but they have not prevented any other private or public group from doing so – the CDC was threatened with loss of federal funding over this issue, because they admitted that they had taken a political stance on the issue before the “research” had even been done.

  • Question Mark December 23, 2015 (2:02 pm)

    It’s often been said there are two things in life you can count on: death and taxes. Now, I suppose there is some balance in that gun and ammunition sales now are taxed in Seattle in addition to the deaths they have already been involved in.

  • JoB December 23, 2015 (2:42 pm)

    there is a really easy way to make sure that you only pay for gun violence that happens with your gun.
    insist on registration, tracking through every sale and the availability for personal liability insurance.
    what? not willing to do that?
    then explain to me again why those of us who don’t choose to own guns should pick up the public tab for gun violence so you shouldn’t have to?
    sorry.. consequences can be a real b…
    if responsible gun owners had insisted on measures for responsible gun ownership we wouldn’t be having this conversation.. would we?

  • Jeff December 23, 2015 (3:24 pm)


    So are you admitting that most of the gun violence in Seattle is due to stolen guns?

    Am I expected to be held responsible for other items stolen from me which may be used in the commission of a crime?

    I thought I-594 was supposed to stop all of this? Wasn’t it?

  • JoAnne December 23, 2015 (3:27 pm)

    It may be slightly delusional to believe that this tax will have any public benefit whatsoever.
    There are only two places left in Seattle that sell guns, and they are already leaving.
    So good luck with that.

  • Dave December 23, 2015 (4:28 pm)


    “Gun violence” is not the only violence perpetrated against others. Any item can be used violently against another. Does that mean that we should tax and register those items as well? Since the typical argument is that guns are only used to kill, why aren’t we seeing this tax on bows/arrows/crossbows/bolts, swords, hunting knives, etc.?

    On another separate point, you should be worried about these types of taxes that are supposed to be for the “public good”. Just wait until they start taxing your favorite hobby/vice under the guise of providing for the “public good”. Will you be in support of the hobby/vice tax using the same justification (gun/ammo tax) when it directly affects you?

    Let’s say that in Seattle you go out to eat 1-2x per week and the Seattle Council decided to tax each dish $1-$2 because they want to promote/research healthy eating.

    There is no limit as to the type of taxes the Seattle Council can impose. You should be frightened of this gun/ammo tax and should be fighting it in the scope of the big picture (bad tax) and not just in your limited scope of “gun violence”.

  • Jw December 23, 2015 (5:15 pm)

    Honestly the first thing this city govt has done that I agree with.
    If we’re looking for a comparable tax, maybe cigarettes would be closer…. They tax the heck out of them for exactly the same reason they’ve implemented this tax.
    -I do love how the people on the right paint this picture like all the people on the left are ignorant about the possibility of new unreasonable taxes. Yeah we get it. You lost. Sorry.

  • wtf December 23, 2015 (6:07 pm)

    so, basically:

    -seattle doesn’t collect desired gun/ammo tax because people buy guns and ammo in other cities

    -seattle loses out on tons of sales tax revenue they would have collected

    -the guns and ammo are STILL in seattle because people don’t stop buying them

    -local gun shops go out of business or move

    -bad people still do bad things

    -“studies” get funded and completed over the next few years that come up with what, exactly? (see above)

    Am I missing something?

  • WS since '66 December 23, 2015 (6:13 pm)

    @jeff and you need 1,000 rounds of ammo every cpl of months because…….? Btw, The facts are the NRA has literally brow beaten many In Congress to acquiesce and support their gun promoting agenda. That is against the wishes of a majority of Americans. With a computer and an Internet connection you can verify these.

  • coldheart craig December 23, 2015 (9:20 pm)

    @WS since ’66

    He probably needs 1,000 rounds of ammo every couple
    of months because this is America and he doesn’t have to answer stupid questions about why he’s buying things he has a legal right to own.

  • j December 23, 2015 (11:15 pm)

    Step 1
    10 year mandatory minimum sentence without the possibility of parole for citizens found guilty of committing a violent crime with a gun.

    Step 2
    5 year minimum mandatory sentence without possibility of parole for possession of a stolen gun.

    Step 3
    1 year minimum mandatory sentence without possibility of parole for anyone illegally carrying or possessing a gun

  • Jw December 24, 2015 (3:03 am)

    There should also be a major penalty if your gun is stolen/taken from you and used in a crime… 1-5 years?
    If you can’t secure it you shouldn’t have it, period.

    @ WTF. Yes, you are. Pro-active baby steps towards comprehensive gun control.

  • Paul December 24, 2015 (7:41 am)

    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the us; maybe we should have a bacon tax $.05 per slice tax or $25 a slab.

  • JoB December 24, 2015 (8:49 am)

    hey guys.. here’s the deal..
    you saw what was happening on our streets when i did (if you are as old as I)
    and you went our and bought your guns to protect your family
    so far.. so good
    but instead of trying to look for a solution you panicked at every possible suggestion that might in any way hamper your ability to obtain any weapon you wanted any time you wanted.
    what the heck did you think would happen? Did you truly believe that in this gun buying frenzy that only good guys would buy guns?
    well.. no. you didn’t think. It really was that simple. it was all about you.
    And because of that..
    our CDC is prevented from actually studying the results of gun violence
    gun manufacturers can not be held liable for their products
    adults are seldom held liable when their unsecured guns are used by minors
    and any d…head in America can go purchase as many truly lethal weapons as they want to go to any of our public spaces and hunt people.
    Now.. i grant that you are nice people and this probably wasn’t what you had in mind…
    but unintended though they are.. those are the very real consequences of those gun policies you fought for.
    we have created a new gun sport category.. hunting people… and games that teach you how to do it…
    and people whose response to mass shootings is to beat their chests loudly about how a good guy with a gun is somehow a counter to a psychopath with an arseal..
    what were we thinking?
    as grandpa would say.. bunch of d… fools.
    who didn’t watch where they were putting their feet.
    it’s getting so a fella can’t walk in the woods any more:(

  • TL December 24, 2015 (12:48 pm)

    So will this also hit the pockets of the city when they buy guns/ammo for the police Dept?

  • Terry December 24, 2015 (4:17 pm)

    The “Line in the Sand” is getting more defined with each passing day! Those that believe in our Constitution and those that don’t ! Exactly why the Second Amendment is so vital to our freedom !

  • JoB December 24, 2015 (4:50 pm)

    i believe in our constitution
    what i don’t believe in is the NRA’s perversion of it

  • Mf 73 December 25, 2015 (4:33 am)

    I sure hope the criminals pay the tax too when they buy their guns and ammo on the street…that’ll show them!

  • SimpleAnswers4SimpleProblems December 25, 2015 (7:19 am)

    The solution to this is not in the courts. The solution is at the polls. These are elected officials. STOP RE-ELECTING THESE KINDS OF PEOPLE TO OFFICE ! If you don’t like what they represent, STOP putting them in office.

  • civik December 25, 2015 (5:31 pm)

    @JoB, how many of these mass-shooters, when confronted with police have decided to kill themselves rather than face opposition?

  • Villagegreen December 25, 2015 (9:24 pm)

    I love the idea that these brainiacs would rather gas up their car (somehow I highly doubt they’d be driving a Prius) so they can drive outside city limits to buy guns and ammunition. Good on you. The city and state thanks you for paying a much higher percentage gas tax to avoid a measly gun tax. Geniuses.

  • jimp December 30, 2015 (2:54 pm)

    When is it INFRINGEMENT on the right to bear arms?
    It doesn’t seem to be $25.
    If that’s ok and passed muster, then why not make it $50, $100, $1000 per gun and $10 per round?
    At what point was the poll tax in the south too high?
    ANY tax was overthrown as an infringement on the right to vote.

Sorry, comment time is over.