Three pro-gun lobbying groups, including the National Rifle Association, filed suit against the city of Seattle on Monday for instituting a "gun violence tax" which places a local levy on firearms and ammunition to support violence prevention programs and research.
In addition to the NRA, the lawsuit was filed by two other national groups, the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, alongside local gun owners and two Seattle-based gun shops, the Outdoor Emporium and Precise Shooter.
Passed by the City Council earlier this month and slated to go into effect in January, the Seattle ordinance requires that gun owners report to the police any instance of lost or stolen guns and places a $25 municipal tax on every gun purchased within the city limits. In the suit, the pro-gun opponents argue the city does not have the authority to impose what they say amounts to a law restricting gun ownership.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Using an analogy to the civil rights movement, Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, argued: "We’re battling what amounts to a poll tax on gun owners and retailers."
The Gun Lobby has put firepower behind the suit. The plaintiffs include the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, along with two Seattle businesses, Outdoor Emporium and Precise Shooter.
The plaintiffs are again arguing that all local firearms measures are preempted by a 35-year-old law that gives the state authority over gun legislation. The law was used to overturn a previous city ban on packing heat in city parks.
"The city does not seem to understand that no matter how they wrap this package, it’s still a gun control law and it violates Washington’s longstanding preemption statute," Gottlieb added.
"The ordinance serves only as a piece of propaganda, because the ordinance's mandates are legally unenforceable," reads the lawsuit. "The state of Washington has the exclusive right to regulate the sale of firearms in Washington, and cities may not enact local laws or regulations related to the sale of firearms."
However, in a statement issued Monday, the office of City Attorney Pete Holmes argued the city's belief that "it is well within its legal authority to tax the sales of firearms and ammunition and will vigorously defend the ordinance in court. We are pleased the NRA et al. opted not to oppose the requirement that owners report lost or stolen weapons to the SPD."
In defending the city's ordinance, Renée Hopkins, executive director of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said the law represents "bold and innovative steps" taken by the city "to invest in public programs that benefit the community" and characterized the lawsuit as "just the latest attempt by the gun lobby to use litigation to overturn the will of the people."
Instead of recognizing the gun violence tax as a workable and modest solution to help battle the violence associated with guns, Hopkins continued, the NRA and its local and national allies have simply "doubled down on the cynical rhetoric and obstructionist tactics that would rob law enforcement and public health professionals of key data and tools at a time when they are needed most."
The lawsuit by the powerful gun lobby comes in Seattle despite growing national concern about the scourge of gun violence in recent years. As Common Dreams reported on Monday, the troubling pattern of mass shootings—made increasingly frequent by a violent society awash in military-style weapons—is now being considered part of the "dark side of American exceptionalism."
Hopkins said her group will continue to do its part by standing together with the city to fight the lawsuit.
"The gun lobby still hasn’t gotten the message," she said, "and we look forward to helping Seattle and Washington State continue to take meaningful action to address gun violence."