Tacoma, Washington could soon become one of the few U.S. cities to levy high taxes on gun sales, opening a new front in the battle over how much power local governments have to regulate firearms, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Washington and 44 other states ban cities and towns from making their own gun laws. But the proposed tax in Tacoma, which would collect $25 per gun sale to fund violence prevention programs, is modeled on a law in neighboring Seattle that has already passed muster with the state supreme court.
“I can’t ban assault rifles in the city of Tacoma. I can’t ban certain types of ammo in the city of Tacoma. I can’t require safe storage. There’s a lot I can’t do,” said Ryan Mello, the Tacoma councilman behind the measure. “The one thing I am not pre-empted from doing is reasonable taxation on firearms and ammunition.”
Opponents of the proposal, which would also collect taxes on ammunition, have said it would force gun shops out of the industrial port city of 215,000. In Seattle, lawmakers projected $300,000 to $500,000 a year in gun taxes, but last year received only $77,642 because gun stores moved away.
“It’ll put us out of business; there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it,” said Dan Davies, who owns Mary’s Pistols in Tacoma with his wife Mary Davies. “They’re punishing innocent people for the deeds of criminals.”
The largest pro-gun groups in the country are fighting against the Tacoma tax, which is scheduled for a city council vote on Tuesday. Lawrence Keane, senior vice president of government relations and public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms-industry trade association, said he worries that other cities could follow in Tacoma’s footsteps, the Journal added.