Morning Fizz

NRA Sues City Over New Gun Tax

Council president Tim Burgess defends city's right to tax gun business, and state representative Ross Hunter compares local levies with what McCleary says the state should be covering.

By Josh Feit August 25, 2015

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1. The NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation filed a suit against Seattle yesterday challenging the legality of the city's new gun and ammo tax.

The new law, sponsored by city council president Tim Burgess (who’s up for reelection this fall), is admittedly in a legal gray area. State law doesn’t allow local jurisdictions to regulate guns; a former mayor Greg Nickels era ban on guns in parks was tossed out by the courts under that state “preemption” rule.

Burgess, however, tells PubliCola that while the state preemption statute prevents the city from regulating the sale and possession of guns it “does not extend to [city B&O] taxing authority.” At least, he acknowledges, that’s the city’s legal theory.

“Does the gun preemption extend to the city’s taxing authority,” he asks, “it’s never been determined.” (The city flirted with a similar business tax aimed at sugary sodas—again, under the Nickels administration—but backed off.)

Like all Seattle businesses, gun shops pay the city’s general B&O tax, a quarterly tax on gross sales. But now, thanks to Burgess's legislation, which the council passed unanimously, gun shops also pay an additional itemized tax broken down by each gun and ammo sale.

The money is dedicated to preventing gun violence—a nexus argument that Burgess also believes plays into the city’s legal argument that they have the power to levy the tax.

“It’s a very progressive measure,” Burgess concluded (tagged as the council conservative, Burgess likes to attach the word “progressive” to his work), “designed to specifically attack gun violence. The industry should help defray the cost of dealing with gun violence.”

The gun tax adds up to about $25 for each firearm sold.

2. Seattle Bike Blog has many more details on the breaking news we had yesterday that the Cascade Bike Club and Washington Bikes are on the verge of a merge. 

3. And for wonks only: State representative Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), the house appropriations chair, has a breakdown on the big MIA portion in K-12 funding: staff compensation.

And he outlines the tricky $3.5 billion problem: the difference between what local levies cover and what McCleary says the state should be covering.

He's got charts too.

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