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Lawsuit Update 2015-10-27

As you probably know, the lawsuit against Seattle aimed to repeal the gun "tax" is in progress. The "tax" is not yet in effect, and we hope that the courts will shoot it down before it becomes the law.

This is our first update on proceedings - there will be more, so check back soon.

As a background, the City Council claims that the gun industry is responsible for criminals misusing guns, and would therefore like to "tax" the gun sellers $25 per firearm sold, and $0.02-$0.05 per round of ammunition, ostensibly to pay for the "violence reduction" programs targeted at the - well, criminals.

There are many things that are wrong with this "plan" - which in reality is nothing but a ploy by Burgess - the president of City Council who is about to lose his reelection campaign - to appear "progressive" on something. We wrote extensively about the complete hack job the city did with the revenue predictions, the failed comparison with Cook County, IL, the illegality of this under WA State Law, and more.

Last week we filed the motion for summary judgment on the case. Here is some more context on this case (full documents are below).

State Law prevents cities from instituting sales tax beyond certain maximums established by the state. Since Seattle is already at this maximum, and could not tax firearms any more than all other goods, they framed this as a B&O - business and occupation - tax, to make it appear as if it were applying to the retailers, but not the general public. The problem is, this "tax" fails every test for being a B&O tax, which is (a) it must be a uniform percentage rate applied to add business receipts, not just firearms and ammunition, (b) it must apply to all retailers uniformly, not just gun dealers, and (c) cannot exceed the maximum allowed by the state, while Seattle B&O tax for retailers is already at this maximum.

Of course, the reason it fails at being a tax is because it is not a tax at all - it is a regulatory fee designed to make guns unavailable in Seattle. Small surprise, given that it would tax the most commonly sold ammunition - sporting rounds at that - at 25-40% (dear City, would a million percent "tax" also not be a regulation in your mind?). And regulating guns is of course prohibited by the State Law.

So to recap the document, City officials...

  • Claimed on paper that this "tax" was designed to fund violence reduction programs while making public comments about it as a way to make guns "harder to get".
  • Claimed totally unrealistic numbers based on "math" that should make a high schooler blush.
  • Misrepresented it as a B&O tax, despite it failing every test for being a B&O tax.
  • Lied about the numbers, and lied about the legality of it.

Can our city leaders really be so incompetent? I think the problem is deeper and far more nefarious.

Of course Burgess - and all other council members - know that the tax is a regulation. And so does Pete Holmes, the City Attorney.

Of course Glen Lee, the City Finance Director went to college and took Stat 101 there - and he knows that the revenue "projections" he produced are complete and utter hogwash, and the city will lose, not gain money if this actually were to pass. And so do other council members, most of all Kshama Sawant who was a software developer once - and I am sure she took the aforementioned Stat 101 in school.

And of course Glen Lee knows what the B&O tax is - or isn't.

Most importantly, all of them know full well that there is absolutely no way this "tax" - even if upheld by courts - can possibly make one dent in Seattle's violent crime.

The know. They are choosing to lie to the constituents because they expect the population of the city to be biased against guns, and not look too closely to the legality of this "law" or quality of the "numbers", - the aim justifies the means, you know - and give them "progressive credentials" badly needed to offset the horrible traffic light programming, the soaring rents, the election funds scandals.

And what's worse, they can also get the city professional wing - the lawyers, the finance people - to support their lies.

And so, regardless of how you feel about guns, do we want these people anywhere near billions of dollars of city budget? Do we want to give them ability to regulate the life of a major city? Because while some of them may be good - or less good - on bicycles, it is the integrity first and foremost that we should be looking in our leaders. Integrity and competence - because without these basic qualities, it doesn't matter what election promises they make - there is no way to say if these promises will be kept. Most likely, they won't be.

And in these areas Seattle City Council is sorely lacking.

Appendix