The ‘Gun Violence Tax’

As expected, three gun-rights groups — the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the Second Amendment Foundation — have sued the city of Seattle over the City Council’s unanimous August adoption of a so-called “gun violence tax.”

The lawsuit accuses the city of violating Washington state law, which prohibits local governments from adopting laws related to firearms unless specifically authorized by the state.

The tax amounts to $25 for each firearm sold in the city, plus 5 cents per round for nearly every type of ammunition. The revenue would reportedly be used not to cover the costs of treating gunshot victims at local emergency rooms — a rationale offered in earlier discussions — but rather for “gun safety research and gun violence prevention programs.” (No, those phrases aren’t defined, but think “making law-abiding residents keep their handguns and ammo locked in separate rooms,” or maybe even “down at the station house.”)

Why not ER costs? Maybe it’s too painful to admit Obamacare — which was supposed to make sure every American had adequate health insurance — has only driven up deductibles and co-pays, while having little other impact on the “working poor” except to drive more of the best physicians out of internal medicine or “general practice,” entirely. Or maybe somebody figured out, if you’re going to tax the sale of items that can eventually contribute to emergency room costs, how large a tax would have to be levied on the sale of each automobile.

Anyway, such an override of state law was tried “back in 2009 with the attempt to ban guns in city parks by administrative regulation,” reports Dave Workman of the Seattle Gun Rights Examiner, “but the courts stopped that scheme cold.”

At the Aug. 9 City Council meeting where the tax was approved, “Opponents of the measure took center stage,” reported local Fox Channel 13, “calling the measure unfair and saying it will be ineffective.”

One was Marilyn Perry, representing a local gun-rights coalition. “As a recent victim of a felony violence in Seattle, I’m appalled that you are enacting an illegal tax requiring law-abiding residents to pay for the impact of violence committed by criminals,” she said.

Ms. Perry has a point, as the ordinance doesn’t seem to include any provision to pay law-abiding citizens a big cash bounty for “violence prevention” if they successfully use a gun to scare off or kill a would-be criminal assailant.

“Switzerland has a fully automatic weapon in every household, yet violent crime rates are very low,” added gun store owner Sergey Solyanik, who predicted the new taxes would cost his business about $50,000 a year, an amount he can’t afford.

“No way the city will be making any money on this bill. In fact, they will be losing money,” said Solyanik, who plans to move his gun shop outside city limits if the lawsuit fails to stop the tax.

“The only real purpose of this legislation is to run gun stores out of the city. I know it, you know it, the courts will know it,” Solyanik said.

Besides, “The burden of regressive taxes like the Seattle proposal falls squarely on those that are least able to afford them,” argues the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. “Persons of means will simply drive outside the city to purchase firearms and ammunition, while those without such options will be forced to forego their rights or pay the tax. This is especially egregious considering how those at the lower end of the economic scale also tend to reside in areas where violent crime is the highest. One wonders whether this type of social engineering on the downtrodden is an intended feature of the legislation rather than an unfortunate consequence.”

I haven’t been able to determine whether the new Seattle tax would apply to firearms and ammo purchased by police . . . but I bet it wouldn’t.

And why not? Persons shot by police — including such innocent parties as John Geer of Springfield, Va. (shot while standing in the doorway to his own home) and 50-year-old Walter Scott of North Charleston, S.C. (shot in the back as he ran away from North Charleston Patrolman Michael Slager) — don’t run up costs at local emergency rooms and thus “contribute to the toll of gun violence”? Well, maybe not . . . given how often police just leave their victim lying there to bleed to death.


Gun owners learned the hard way, over the years, the difference between states with “shall issue” gun permit laws, and states with “may issue” gun permit laws.

Mind you, no one should need a government “permit” to exercise a constitutional right such as owning and carrying a firearm, in the first place.

But the “default setting” can make a huge difference. In states with “shall issue” or “must issue” laws, law-abiding citizens who jump through the specified hoops get a permit to own and carry their concealed weapon, or else the local sheriff or other issuing authority can find himself in court, explaining why not.

But in a “may issue” jurisdiction — New York and Los Angeles were long famous for this — permit issuance was purely at the whim of the sheriff or local chief of police. Judges and friends of the chief might get permits; most other folks were out of luck.

For some reason, the gun-grabbers remember that state of affairs with warm nostalgia. Yes, yes, hoodlums always seemed to able to get any weapon they wanted, while the person left disarmed could well be your wife or daughter, stalked down a dark alley by an armed assailant. But there was less “gun violence,” see? The armed rapist rarely needed to actually shoot his victim. Just the threat of the weapon would get him everything he wanted. And can’t we all recall how much nicer that was?

Now, the hoplophobes hope to similarly adjust the “default setting” with a new scheme that fares well in the opinion polls. Even as ever-increasing majorities of Americans oppose any kind of outright handgun ban (74 percent now oppose any broad ban on handguns, according to the Gallup people, a number which has climbed steadily since the nation split 50-50, back in 1964) a majority DO agree we should “get guns out of the hands of the mentally incompetent.”

Can you see where this is heading?

It now occurs to the gun-haters and rape-enablers, “Wait a minute. We’ve been going about this all wrong. We’ve been acting as though the presumption is that anyone walking into a gun store or hoping to buy an extra hunting rifle from his buddy is sane — that people should only be blocked from buying a firearm if we can somehow prove they’re ‘mentally incompetent.’

“But what if we were to make it a legal presumption that certain large classes of people START OUT ‘psychologically unfit’ to possess firearms? Then the only way someone from one of those large classes of people would be able to legally buy a firearm is for them to PROVE THEY’RE SANE!”

Imagine: You’ve picked out that shiny new target rifle or self-defense handgun. They’ve run the “criminal background check” and determined you’re not some convicted felon. But then the clerk says, “Um, there’s this new federal rule, see. I’m a little embarrassed to ask you, Charlie, since we’ve known you for years and all, but you’re a senior citizen, now. Lots of those people have Alzheimer’s. Also, you’re a veteran, and a lot of those guys have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. So — I’m required to do this, you understand — can you show me any written proof that you’re mentally competent?”

It may sound far-fetched, but as my colleague Clayton Cramer detailed in the pages of “Shotgun News” in September, the Veterans Administration some years ago started adding to the FBI’s list of those who will be turned down in any federal background check all veterans whose pension or disability checks are sent to “representative payees.” (Such “RPs” – usually relatives — are designated to receive the checks of veterans who are judged incapable of handling their own finances.)

Are a lot of those folks too “out of it” to be buying guns? Probably. All of them? In that assumption lies the danger, since an entire class of people were being denied a constitutional right. Wisely, the NRA sponsored new legislation in 2007 which at least creates an avenue for such Americans to appeal their inclusion on the national “gun disability” list . . . assuming they’re willing to go to the expense.

But now the Obama administration proposes to use the same method to bar gun ownership for about 4.2 million Americans whose Social Security retirement or disability checks are similarly delivered to “Representative Payees.” And Professor Cramer cites a Los Angeles Times article of July 21, 2015 for his estimate that only about 2.7 million of those 4.2 million Americans have “RP”s because of mental illness.

“Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe,” Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who’s studied how veterans with mental health problems manage their money, told Alan Zarembo of the Times. “They are very different determinations.”

Democrats are now reportedly re-thinking whether Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden would do a better job of “carrying on Barack Obama’s legacy.”

Would that be his legacy of tireless attempts to strip away the Constitutional rights of millions more Americans? Yeah: Let’s see how that goes, next November.


Speaking of the John Geer case (above), The Washington Post reported Aug. 17 “A former Northern Virginia police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man two years ago was indicted on charges of second-degree murder on Monday. . . .”

Adam Torres, 32, “shot and killed John Geer of Springfield in August 2013 in a standoff after an argument between Geer, 46, and his longtime partner at the home they shared with their two children. . . .” Fellow officers and other witnesses said Geer was standing in his doorway with his gun at his feet and his hands up when Torres shot him, according to the Post.

Torres, who was fired July 31, told investigators he believed Geer was . . . oh, you guessed! . . . making a furtive movement toward his waistband. Police left him in his house, wounded, for three hours. Geer bled to death.

Vin Suprynowicz, former award-winning columnist and editorial writer for the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal, is the author of “Send in the Waco Killers” and the drug-war novel “The Testament of James.” His new novel about the War on Drugs, “The Miskatonic Manuscript,” is due in November.

5 Comments to “The ‘Gun Violence Tax’”

  1. Steve Says:

    The Switzerland thing about fully automatic weapons in every house was never true. All military weapons the soldier wants to keep are modified to be one shot only. The ammo is now stored at the range with only a small amount left at the house.
    With polls showing positive movement this kind of disinformation only hurts the message. I wish it would be stopped just as much as the gun control freaks need to be stopped.

  2. Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger Says:

    Actually, during Swiss militia service the full-auto-capable weapons are kept at home, but gov-issue ammo is not. They can keep ammo they buy privately. After militia service is complete, the weapon may be kept if converted to semi-auto (considerably different than “one shot only”).

  3. Steve Says:

    Forgive me for my terminology. I have three guns, a security six, a mark 1 and a 22 rifle. I am not, by any means, a gun nut.
    I just like to have my protection and I like to take them to my land to shoot once in a while.
    I am the example who most benefits from stopping the gun control people.

    Thank you, Carl, for showing I am not completely wrong but the idea the Swiss are all armed with fully automatic weapons, by law, is absurd on its face and dilutes the message I think is right.

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