Seattle’s Gun And Ammo Tax – Did The Government Actually Want This Tax To Fail?

Last year, after a great deal of wrangling in the courts, Seattle instituted a tax on the sales of firearms and ammunition, of $25 per firearm and “between 2 to 5 cents” per round of ammunition.  The tax was supported by Seattle City Countil President Tim Burgess, who stated the following justification for the tax:

Burgess has said Seattle’s tax is expected to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Solyanik and other critics of the ordinance have questioned that, saying the tax won’t raise much at all if it drives the city’s few remaining gun stores out of town.

Free Market Shooter has covered a litany of tax increases instituted by the state that have turned out to be complete failures.  Almost always, the state implements the tax expecting to collect revenue on previous tax receipts, with nothing factored into how citizens will alter their behavior to adjust for the tax.

But in the case of Seattle’s tax, did the state actually expect and want it to fail?

Fox News posted an article last year detailing the experiences of Seattle gun store owners.  Some believed that the state was deliberately trying to drive business out of business and outside of Seattle’s city limits:

The stated objective was to raise up to $500,000 per year to fund programs to prevent gun violence. But Coombs claims the real effect is to kill his business, and a gun rights legal foundation is battling the city for figures it believes will show the law was never about taking in revenue.

“What they’re trying to do is get gun stores out of the city,” said Coombs, 48, whose Outdoor Emporium store operates in the shadow of Safeco Field and boasts of having “the largest selection of outdoor related products at affordable everyday warehouse pricing.”

Longtime customers have told Coombs they simply go outside the city now to buy firearms and ammunition rather than pay the tax, which he blames for the layoffs of two workers so far this year. Precise Shooter, a smaller gun shop in Seattle, moved 16 miles outside of the city to Lynnwood on the day the tax took effect.

“We feel that, basically, a crackpot politician was trying to buttress his ‘progressive’ credentials and we got run over,” owner Sergey Solyanik told

Solyanik was referring to Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess, who drafted the law providing for the so-called “gun violence tax.” The City Budget Office estimated the gun violence tax would collect between $300,000 to $500,000 a year, which Burgess said would fund gun violence prevention programs and medical research.

From the sounds of it, the businesses themselves aren’t even sure exactly what Burgess’s aims were.  With goal revenues of “between $300,000 to $500,000” per annum, it is no surprise that the tax has been a dismal failure, bringing revenues of less than $200,000 according to Burgess, the very same city council member who was crucial in passing and implementing the tax:

Seattle’s tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition raised less than $200,000 during its first year, according to Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess.

The city had previously kept the revenue information confidential to protect taxpayers’ privacy, as reported in a recent Seattle Times story.

So the question is – was City Councilman Burgess merely trying to drive businesses outside of his city?  Or is he just another tax-and-spend self-righteous liberal politician? 

We can turn to the example of Chicago, perhaps the most difficult city in the nation to (legally) own a gun.  Chicago has previously tried to ban gun stores and sales altogether from the city limits, but its law was struck down by the courts.  Afterwards, the few gun stores that remained were subject to ridiculous regulations:

The Chicago City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that would place strict limits on gun stores, forcing them to video-record sales and restrict gun buyers to one purchase a month in a city plagued with violence.

Pat Corcoran, a spokesman for the city clerk’s office, told the Los Angeles Times that the ordinance, proposed last month, passed 48-0. Two aldermen were absent.

The new ordinance, once signed by the mayor, replaces a citywide ban on gun sales that was ruled illegal by a federal judge in January.

The new legislation allows gun sales in only a small percentage of the city and will force gun shop employees to pass background checks and learn how to spot and stop “straw purchasers,” gun buyers who purchase weapons on behalf of someone else, generally someone who is ineligible to own a firearm.

The ordinance, a draft version of which can be viewed here, also bans sales at gun shows within the city limits.

Clearly, doing (legal) business in firearms in Chicago is extremely difficult, at best.  If you look at the case of the Chicago tax that was also cited by Fox News, right around the time the city was forced to issue concealed carry (CCW) permits to their residents, they enacted a “violence tax” on gun sales, similar to Seattle’s:

Cook County, Ill., implemented a similar tax on guns April 1, 2013. Beginning next month, the county, which includes Chicago, will impose a tax on ammunition as well.

And unsurprisingly, the tax did absolutely nothing to reduce violence, which seems to be reaching even newer highs every day (check out for specifics):

Now consider this–Chicago’s “violence tax” went into effect in April 2013. Months later, CBS Chicago reported number of homicides in Chicago for 2013 came in at 415. People cheered! The tax is working! Violence has abated!

Then came 2014, the first full calendar year after the implementation of the tax, and the Chicago Tribune reported 434 deaths–a 19 death increase.

Then came the first six months of 2015, and Chicago’s ABC 7 reported that “murders and shooting are up.” For example, “in June of 2015, there were 13 more homicides in Chicago than June of 2014.” In all, USA Today reported the homicide rate in Chicago jumped “19 percent” and “shooting incidents” rose “21 percent” in the first six months of 2015.

But guess what? Cook County gets $25 for every gun law-abiding citizens buy for self-defense and Seattle’s City Council vote indicates that that city may soon begin doing the same.

Clearly, we all know the Democrat politicians, especially at the municipial/city level, are not the sharpest tools in the shed, but in the case of Chicago at least, they are clearly doing their best to keep gun stores outside their city limits.  But, is Seattle following the same example, or do they actually plan on using firearms to raise public dollars?

Washington State has proposed draconian gun bills recently, and is known to be one of the more anti-gun states in the nation. This is perhaps due to the influence of Microsoft, as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Paul Allen have dumped millions of dollars into gun control measures in the state.  Microsoft is headquartered in Seattle, and their influence on local politicians can and should be expected to incur.  Indeed, Tim Burgess has taken a great deal of money from Microsoft, so being beholden to their special interests is possible.  But, is that alone enough to sway a politician to enact a specific law?  It is a lot of conjecture that is anything but conclusive. 

So was Seattle’s tax designed to raise money, or purely as a gun control measure by liberal politicians?  Best guess is, some combination of both.  Because like business, firearms are something they just know nothing about.