The Seattle Times
Posted with permission from Tribune Content Agency

SEATTLE — The Washington state Supreme Court ruled to uphold Seattle's tax on gun and ammunition sales, according to an opinion issued Thursday morning.

The justices ruled 8 to 1 to affirm a previous decision by the King County Superior Court, which sided with the city against opponents, including the National Rifle Association.

The city has been imposing the tax of $25 per firearm and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition for more than a year and a half, following City Council passage in 2015.

During that time, the lawsuit brought by the tax's opponents has been moving through the courts.

The plaintiffs have said the tax violates a Washington law that bans cities from regulating firearms, reserving that authority for the state. Seattle claims the tax is legal because taxation is different from regulation.

The majority opinion concluded in part that the city's ordinance does impose a tax, rather than a regulation, on firearms "because its primary purpose is to raise revenue for the public benefit."

The city won the first battle in December 2015, when a King County Superior Court judge came down on the side of the tax, ruling it could take effect.

Opponents then took the case to a state appeals court, which passed it on to the state Supreme Court.

In addition to the NRA, the plaintiffs include the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and two local gun owners.

Outdoor Emporium, a store in Sodo that sells guns, and Precise Shooter, a gun store that abandoned its Green Lake location after the tax was adopted, also have been part of the suit.

They've said the point of the tax is to drive gun sellers out of the city, while proponents, such as City Councilmember Tim Burgess, have said the intent is to raise money for gun-violence research as part of an effort to stop it.

When Burgess proposed the tax, he said the city's budget office had estimated it would raise $300,000 to $500,000 annually. It raised less than $200,000 during its first year.

Seattle has been waiting to spend that money until the lawsuit is resolved.