Council President Tim Burgess has said the tax of $25 per gun and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition is expected to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars annually that will be set aside for gun-violence-prevention research and programs.
Treating gunshot victims at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center costs the public millions each year because many patients rely on Medicaid or lack insurance, Burgess has pointed out.
“Gun violence is a public-health crisis in our city and our nation,” he said Monday. “City government can and must pursue innovative gun-safety measures that save lives and save money. As it has in other areas of policy, Seattle can lead the way.”
Representatives of gun-rights groups have said the tax, which will be assessed from gun sellers, is illegal because a state law prohibits cities from regulating firearms.
The tax is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016, but there may be a delay because the city likely will be sued by gun-rights groups.
Some gun owners have said the tax will be passed on to them and have complained that they’ll be paying the price for crimes committed by people who obtain guns illegally.And some gun sellers have said the ordinance will force them to move their businesses outside Seattle and will raise less revenue than Burgess has indicated.
There were only 22 licensed gun sellers in the city when officials working on the legislation checked, and only a few of those are gun stores. More are either pawnshops or individuals serving as middlemen for Internet firearms sales.
Sergey Solyanik, who owns Precise Shooter on Aurora Avenue North, told council members Monday that pushing his store out of the city won’t make anyone safer.
But his testimony didn’t impress Councilmember John Okamoto, who spoke about former students at the Seattle school where his wife works. Several have been victims of gun violence or have lost friends and relatives to shootings, Okamoto said. He noted that as of early July, more than 38 people had been shot in Seattle this year.
About 30 people, many of them members of the group Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, marched from Sam Smith Park in the Central District to City Hall before the council’s meeting to demonstrate support for the gun ordinances.
Before leaving the park, they gathered around the Urban Peace Circle, a bronze sculpture dedicated more than 20 years ago to Seattle children killed in shootings.
“Life is precious,” said Karen Wickstrand, 72, a member of the grandmothers group who lives in Madison Park. “When people are killed for no reason, that’s tragic.”
The artist who installed the sculpture in 1994, Gerard Tsutakawa, was on hand. “There were a lot of young people involved in gun violence back then,” he recalled. “Now we’re dealing with this issue again. I haven’t seen much change for the better.”
Mayor Ed Murray issued a statement saying the council’s approval of the tax “demonstrates the commitment of this city and this community to lead on the ongoing national epidemic of gun violence.”
“While action at the federal level and in many other jurisdictions remains gridlocked, we are moving ahead to address an issue so damaging to the young people of Seattle, especially young people of color,” Murray said.
Burgess had originally proposed a tax of 5 cents per round on all ammunition but subsequently reduced that to 2 cents for rounds of .22 caliber and smaller.
The reporting requirement for lost and stolen firearms will take effect 30 days after the mayor signs it into law.