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Washington State is Probably Lost

Gun owners there are on borrowed time, at this point. Washington State has a fairly iron-clad preemption law, but that didn’t prevent the Washington Supreme Court from upholding Seattle’s gun and ammunition tax. You can find the full opinion here.

One wonders how much Seattle could get away with taxing guns. $50 per gun? $100 per gun? A dollar per round of ammo? It wasn’t even close. Only a single justice argued that Washington’s preemption statute forbids any ordinance touching on firearms at all, which it clearly says.

22 Responses to “Washington State is Probably Lost”

  1. RAH says:

    Unless you have sympathetic Circuit Ct without the numbers of voters that support gun rights a state can lose RKBA fast. See CA for example @ nd Circuit for NY and 4th for MD are both terrible despite states being quite different in thier laws

  2. RAH says:

    The solution is seduce more people into being lovers of shooting and guns.Many of you have done that

    • Larry says:

      Isn’t Washington state where they also passed a law requiring a background check for someone else to handle and fire your weapons, just as if it were a full-fledged permanent transfer of ownership? Or did that, at least, get struck down?

      • Aces says:

        Nope. It passed and went into effect. From what I’ve seen since then, there are those who just shrug their shoulders and use a FFL to do the transfers when selling guns, or just ignore the unenforceable law. At Ranges, we ignore it when working with a new shooter, or old friend. But we make sure we are physically present when our gun is in someone else’s hands.

  3. Tirno says:

    Well, the Wash Supremes have made a straightforward judgement at some kind of vague, handy-wavy ‘in the public interest’ justification will support any kind of specialty tax.

    It’ll probably take a local tax on abortions ‘to fund community programs to prevent teen pregnancy’ to get the precedent overturned.

    Or perhaps a specific local tax on weed ‘for addiction treatment programs’.

  4. Phssthpok says:

    Heads up Fellow Washingtonians… Seattle is currently trying to do the same thing with a (BLATANTLY) illegal city Income Tax as well.

    They openly admit that they want to have it challenged so they can get the question before the WASC. And you KNOW that if they win at the SC level, then the entire state will eventually go ‘income tax’..one city/county at a time.

  5. Alien says:

    Washington State is Probably Lost

    Two things come to mind:
    First, I suspect it’s been Lost for longer then we realize.

    Second, I don’t think it’s just Washington state, but the entire 60-mile-deep Pacific coastal strip between Mexico and Canada: Seattle, through Portland, through San Francisco, to San Diego, are all of one. It’s interesting how handy I-5 is as a demarcation line.

    At this point, though, it’s the proverbial “distinction without a difference” since despite the tremendous social and political differences between the coastals and the inlanders, until borders move, or borders added, it’s what it is.

    The goal, I suppose, is to acknowledge the transformation and prevent the cancer from metastisizing east, unless there’s suitable effort warranted at the federal level for attacking excessive taxation as prohibiting an enumerated Constitutional right (which has complexities beyond the obvious). Has Mr. Gura had an opportunity to weigh in on this yet?

  6. rd says:

    Will SCOTUS take the case?

    Sad that the Federal Courts are needed to make state courts follow existing state laws.

    • dollup15 says:

      Federal courts cannot overrule a state supreme court’s application of state law. State supreme courts are the last word on state law. SCOTUS could only overrule them if federal law somehow conflicted with the state court’s holding.

      So, for this case, SCOTUS couldn’t overrule the state supreme court’s finding regarding preemption (which is a purely state law matter), but if someone could make the argument that the tax is a burden on Second Amendment rights (which is, of course, federal), then SCOTUS could intervene, at least theoretically.

      • rd says:

        Thank you.

      • Whetherman says:

        “… if someone could make the argument that the tax is a burden on Second Amendment rights…”

        “Burdens on [constitutional] rights” is where things get subjective, and the doctrine that “no constitutional right is absolute” renders constitutional rights meaningless, in practice.

        Not to change the subject but, as clear as we believe the intent of the “free-speech” provision of the First Amendment always was (i.e., protecting political speech, in particular) during WWI Wilson sent hundreds of people to prison for criticizing government policy — because it was popular for him to do that. And justices like Oliver Wendel Holmes said that was just fine.

        Of course if you want to go back far enough, the Sedition Act was passed while the ink was still wet on the Bill of Rights.

        (So that no one get the wrong idea, all of the above is a statement of frustration.)

        • dollup15 says:

          You’re absolutely correct, which is why I couched my remarks with “at least theoretically.” My point was only that, from a basic legal perspective, SCOUTS cannot review a state supreme court’s determination of state law, unless the decision somehow impacts federal law.

          Whether SCOTUS will actually do something is, of course, anyone’s guess.

      • Krakass says:

        This seems to fly directly in the face of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Minneapolis Star Tribune Co. v. Commissioner (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minneapolis_Star_Tribune_Co._v._Commissioner). Though based on past actions they probably won’t grant cert.

        • dollup15 says:

          That’s an interesting argument to make. The obvious distinction is that the tax in Minneapolis Star Tribune was struck down because it was found to violate the First Amendment, and this would implicate the Second.

          Should there be any difference? Probably not, but the courts have not applied the same standards to the two amendments.

      • Alpheus says:

        In theory, one might argue that the decision violates a State’s right to Republican government — that a State Supreme Court ought to respect Constitutional laws, and strike down laws that aren’t.

        Of course, whether the United States Federal court is willing to even just entertain such a notion could be far-fetched to say the least…

        Also, it’s a dangerous road to go down. I kindof like how the Federal court system won’t meddle in State affairs, unless there’s a good reason (*cough*Second Amendment Rights*cough*) to do so…

  7. Lyle says:

    It would not be at all difficult to prove intent, by Seattle authoritarians, to chill the exercise of a constitutionally enumerated right. That’s at least one federal crime they’re committing. It’s either a Conspiracy to Deprive Rights (18 USC 241) or it’s Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law (18 USC 242), or both. All it would take is a subpoena of their internal records of communications on the matter.

    I consider the west coast, and Seattle in particular (it’s in my home state) to be enemy occupied territory. At some point they’ll probably have to be put down by force, or we’ll have to surrender our country to the enemies of liberty.

    Authoritarians, if nothing else, are brilliant at forcing a conflict. They’ll have you one way or another.

    But who are the friends of liberty? Done anyone even know?

    • Whetherman says:

      “Authoritarians, if nothing else, are brilliant at forcing a conflict.”

      Perhaps the bigger problem is, that authoritarianism is independent of what we normally regard as the ideological divide. The result is that in practical terms there are no friends of liberty. At least, there never have been in any significant number.

      I’d suggest the only real ideological divide is between authoritarians and anti-authoritarians.

      • Alpheus says:

        I’ve come to realize that the divide is between Individualists and Collectivists, but yeah, the divide is between anti-authoritarians and authoritarians.

        • Whetherman says:

          “I’ve come to realize that the divide is between Individualists and Collectivists…

          That’s always an interesting point to examine, because usually people only differ over what they will be collectivist about. E.g, take someone who is a “militia” member, and they will probably define themselves as one of the few “rugged individualists” in the country. (Maybe, three percent?) But obviously they believe in collective action as practiced by their militia group, which will probably be organized along very authoritarian paramilitary lines.

          And of course a corporation is a collective, providing protection to key individuals from responsibilities they would have were they to do the same thing as individuals, but that they oversee their corporation doing.

          An interesting discussion I had a few years ago, was with a militia leader who was badmouthing unions. I pointed out that his militia was just a union by another name — having goals it thought would be worthy of using force to pursue, while either utilizing or skirting the law as was expedient for their purposes.

          Not to carry this on ad nauseum, I believe that people can have opposing visions of what the organizing model should be, but the important difference is whether they envision people being coerced into adhering to their vision.

  8. JC_VA says:

    Of course, we’ll have the usual “Let them sink” crowd along any minute. If not here, then elsewhere.

  9. Chas says:

    Poll taxes are illegal everywhere in the US, so if they can’t tax the right to vote, why can they tax the right to keep and bear arms? I mean, aside from the fact that the communists masquerading as liberals don’t like it.

    • Whetherman says:

      Just casting around for random examples to think about, I don’t think there is any principle that a constitutional right can’t be taxed, though that may be frowned upon. E.g., I believe churches can be taxed, and only are not taxed by tradition and convention. But the current debates about the “Johnson Amendment” focus on, that churches are only excused from federal taxation in return for not participating directly in electoral politics, i.e., overtly endorsing candidates.

      Another example may be, I think that newspepers and magazines can be subject to sales taxes (a “stamp tax?”) though that could be considered as limiting free speech and a violation of the First Amendment.

      My purpose isn’t to advocate one way or the other, only to explore the premise that a constitutional right can’t be taxed.

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