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Seattle judge upholds 'violence tax' on firearms

| Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, 1:18 p.m.

SEATTLE — A judge upheld Seattle's so-called gun violence tax this week, rejecting a challenge from the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups.

King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson dismissed arguments that Seattle's tax, adopted last summer, exceeded the city's authority under state law.

The measure — one of only a couple of its kind in the nation — adds $25 to the price of each firearm sold in the city, plus 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition, depending on the type. Officials expect it to raise as much as $500,000 a year to help offset the costs of gun violence. The measure is set to take effect next month.

“The NRA and its allies always oppose these commonsense steps to shine light on the gun violence epidemic,” said City Council President Tim Burgess, who sponsored the law. “Judge Robinson saw through the NRA's distorted efforts to put gun industry profits ahead of public safety.”

The NRA did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment, but another plaintiff, the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, promised an immediate appeal. The groups have argued state law puts responsibility for regulating firearms solely in the hands of the Legislature, not local governments.

“It is unconscionable for Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council to codify what amounts to social bigotry against firearms retailers and their customers,” Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gott­lieb said in a written statement.

But the judge found the measure falls within the city's taxing authority and is not an impermissible regulation.

The City Council modeled the tax after a similar one in Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago; the NRA has said Chicago is the only other city with such a measure. The revenue would be used for gun safety research and gun violence prevention programs.

Between 2006 and 2010, there were, on average, 131 firearms deaths a year in King County, according to Public Health-Seattle and King County. And 536 people required hospitalization for shooting injuries during that time.

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