Tacoma is considering implementing a tax that would add $25 to all firearms purchase. The tax would also add 2 cents per round to ammunition purchases that is .22 Caliber or less and add 5 cents per round to all other ammunition.
Such a tax should be held unconstitutional because it chills the right to keep and bear arms, protected by both the U.S. Constitution and the Washington State Constitution.
The proposed tax seems to violate the state preemption statute. From leg.wa.gov:
The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.
When Seattle imposed a tax on guns and ammunition, the Washington Supreme Court has held a tax on guns is not a regulation of guns. It upheld the ability of cities to tax guns and ammunition in 2017. The Washington Supreme Court can not be counted on to protect the Citizens of Tacoma from the gun tax.
Aside from potential legal challenges to the tax, the stated theory behind the tax is incorrect. As with many issues in this era, it relies on basic assumptions about the universe which divide the United States into two opposing ideologies.
One group holds that men and women have free will, constrained by objective reality. That group holds people to make choices and should be held responsible for those choices. Those concepts are part of Natural Law theory, which underlies the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
The other group holds that men and women have very little free will. What they do is determined by their environment and the groups they were born into. They are not responsible for their choices. Those concepts are part of Leftist ideology, especially, in the United States, Progressive ideology.
The theory behind the tax is the mere existence of guns in a community increases the level of costs, thereby increasing the costs to the community. Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards compared a tax on firearms to a tax on gasoline: From twitter.com:
That’s like saying, ‘My car is in the driveway and I only drive it two days a week, not seven days a week, but every time I go to the gas station, I still have to pay the tax when I fill it up.’
The tax on gasoline is a use tax. When you drive a car, it causes wear on the roadways. If you travel much, roads have to be created and maintained. The gasoline tax, while not perfect, does a pretty good job of charging the users of the road with its costs. Cars do not repair the roadway as they use it.
It is a poor analogy to a tax on guns and ammunition. Legally owned guns do not necessarily create costs in a community. It is likely the use of guns prevent as many or more costs than they create. Most of what is categorized in the Orwellian term “gun violence” are suicides committed with guns. Most of those suicides are committed by old, sick, white, men. Those suicides probably prevent the expenditure of funds for medical care much more than they cost them. When guns have been restricted, overall suicide rates have not decreased. The presence of guns has little effect on suicides or costs with suicides.
In addition, large numbers of crimes are prevented by people who use guns to do so. In the car and road analogy, it would be as if cars automatically repaired the roads they drove on. Few would dispute that police use guns to prevent crime, or the military uses guns to prevent invasion. Only the use of guns by individual citizens is in dispute.
So-called “studies” that only look at the costs of people injured with guns never consider the costs prevented by people who use guns. Injuries and crimes committed with guns are much easier to quantify than injuries and crimes prevented by the use of guns.
A closer analogy would be a tax on hospitals. Millions of people a year die and are injured in hospitals. Taxing the hospitals to pay for medical costs is would be silly. Similarly, taxing guns to pay for the costs of gun injuries without considering the benefits of the use of guns is silly.
It is more reasonable to encourage the ownership and use of guns for beneficial purposes than to tax them.
The group who believe in the Constitution, responsibility, and natural law, believe those who violate the law should be responsible to pay the costs they create.
The group who believes in leftist, Progressive ideology, believes individuals are not responsible. It is the group that must be held responsible. Therefore gun owners, who had nothing to do with costs associated mostly with criminals, should pay for those costs with a tax on guns.
Those who do not own guns are willing to tax those who do, primarily for a political statement. The primary effect of a Tacoma tax on guns would be to drive gun retailers out of the City of Tacoma. Aero Precision is a gun manufacturer based in Tacoma. They are reported to employ hundreds of people. The CEO, Scott Dover, was quoted as saying his employees are very concerned with the effects of the tax proposal.
The vote on the Tacoma gun tax may take place on Tuesday, 12 November, 2019. If enough irate citizens show up, the tax may be tabled or postponed again.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.