Despite a pro-gun rights President in the White House and Republicans in control of Congress, gun owners face a new and dangerous threat at the state and local level—a “gun violence tax.”
Thanks to a tortured ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court, the gun prohibition lobby has reloaded to use this tax for an assault on gun ownership.
On August 10 Washington’s high court sided with the City of Seattle, which adopted a “gun violence tax” in a strategy to slither around the state preemption law that placed exclusive authority for regulating firearms in the hands of the State Legislature. And this new scheme could be coming to any city that has an anti-gun rights Mayor and City Council.
In Seattle’s case, the tax is $25 on the sale of each firearm, plus two to five cents for each round of ammunition sold. This threat takes on even more sinister dimensions when one considers the potential for cities to simply up the fee. Seattle started with $25 per gun, but what if they want to raise that to $100, $500 or even $1,000?
It opens the door wide to making gun ownership prohibitively expensive for average citizens. Essentially, Washington’s Supreme Court just handed the gun prohibition lobby and its allies in government a new strategy: If they can’t ban or regulate gun ownership out of existence, they will simply tax it into oblivion.
The ruling creates a new battleground for groups like the National Rifle Association, Second Amendment Foundation, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
And you can count on this—city and county governments controlled by anti-gun liberal politicians will be imposing such taxes in their own communities. They may say the revenue will be used for “gun violence research or prevention” programs, but in reality this is to finance gun control, and force firearms retailers out of business.
Such taxes penalize honest gun owners and use their money to conduct questionable research with the ultimate goal of using the findings to support additional restrictions on their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Daniel Webster is credited with observing that “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” This should alarm any civil rights activist because now there may be nothing to prevent placing similar taxes on the exercise of other rights.
If this were about anything other than firearms, one could certainly wonder if the liberal City of Seattle would have imposed this punitive tax.
Would liberals put a special tax on condoms to fund research on AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases? Or a special tax on drug paraphernalia to fund research on drug abuse? How about a special tax on abortions to fund research on teen pregnancies? The answer is no.
Currently, only Seattle and Cook County, Illinois—which encompasses Chicago—have instituted “gun violence taxes.” But thousands of local governments have been carefully watching this case so that they could use the Washington ruling to launch their own financial infringements on the exercise of firearms civil rights.
The Washington State ruling is a shot across the bow of every American gun owner and is fueled judicial activism. This is yet another reminder of how important it is to elect pro-Second Amendment judges to state courts. When the highest court in any state gives the nod to taxing the exercise of a fundamental civil right, it plows dangerous new ground and plants legal landmines in its wake.
Alan Gottlieb is the founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation and a guest columnist for “Down Range with AWR Hawkins.”