Plaintiffs Ask for Summary Judgment in Seattle Gun Tax Case

Gun groups accuse city of trying to skirt state law

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Plaintiffs in the case against Seattle's gun sales and ammunition tax have asked the court to issue a summary judgment.

Lawyers representing the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment Foundation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and local gun owners filed the motion for summary judgment with King County Superior Court on Friday. By filing the motion, the plaintiffs are arguing that the facts of the case are settled and the court should issue its decision.

They say the city's tax is illegal since Washington state law "fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state." Additionally, the plaintiffs argue, Seattle "is well aware of this restriction on its legislative power, in part because its most recent attempt to regulate firearms was emphatically struck down by the Court of Appeals."

The lawsuit was filed in response to Seattle's decision to impose a $25 tax on the sale of every firearm and two to five cent tax on the sale of every round of ammunition within city limits. The tax, passed on Aug. 10, does not go into effect until January. City officials say the tax is designed to offset the costs associated with gun violence, not restrict access to guns.

“We’re not attempting to control whether someone can purchase a weapon,” Tim Burgess, the president of Seattle’s city council, told CNN in August. “We are taxing a commodity.”

The three leading gun rights organizations said the tax was a violation of both the Constitution and Washington state law. They decided to join together as plaintiffs in a suit against the city for the first time in their history. Pointing to a 2009 attempt to ban guns from Seattle parks and community centers which was struck down by the Washington State Supreme Court, the gun groups said the state's authority on gun laws was clear. Now they're asking for a speedy resolution.

“Seattle is trying to be too clever by half,” Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation, said in a statement.

“Our motion shows that members of the city council brainstormed with members of local gun control groups to try to skirt the preemption law. This so-called ‘gun violence tax’ clearly seeks to limit access to firearms and ammunition by imposing what amounts to a regulatory fee on the sale of all firearms and ammunition within City limits."

"The city can’t do that, and we’re confident the court will tell them so," he added

Gottlieb said the real target of the tax is Washington's preemption law, which requires all gun-related laws to be passed by the state government, not localities.

“In the final analysis, this is an attempt to skate around, and thus erode, our state’s model preemption law," he said. "That cannot be allowed to stand. The City of Seattle is not an entity unto itself, but still part of Washington state, and therefore the city has to abide by the same laws we all follow."

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.