Taxing a Civil Right

ItsATaxSeattle is proposing taxing guns and ammunition. The tax would be $25 dollars on firearms, and 5 cents on each round of ammunition. This would probably put every dealer within city limits out of business, which is probably the idea. By all rights, this should be unconstitutional, because in the context of other rights, these kinds of taxes have been held as such, but the courts have shown almost no willingness to protect the Second Amendment as anything other than a second class right, subordinate to all the others.

I think Scalia and Thomas’s dissent in denial of cert for Jackson will act as signal to the lower courts that Heller and McDonald are going to be more like Lopez and Morrison; odd, outlying cases rather than landmark rulings which change everything. I hate to be pessimistic, but without change, it’s pretty apparent the Court will not be revisiting the Second Amendment.

That said, I think a pretty good argument could be made in Washington State courts that such a tax violates Washington State’s preemption statute, which has pretty strong language. Surely if a local municipality can’t regulate the sale of firearms and ammunition, it can’t accomplish the same by trying to tax sales out of existence. Washington State also has a RKBA provision, and there’s nothing that prevents Second Amendment claims to be considered by Washington State courts.

6 thoughts on “Taxing a Civil Right”

  1. I live in Seattle now. I moved out to WA state a little over a year ago. It was odd to me that I had to hear about this from a fellow PA boy. So strangely there is only one gun store in the entire city of Seattle, at least in the city proper so I have trouble thinking this is going to impact as many people or raise as much money as they think it will.

    The state already taxes guns bought out of state when they go through an FFL which is total BS. For example if I buy a gun for $500 from a dealer in Florida when I get it shipped to an FFL in Washington not only do I have to pay the $25 transfer fee I have to pay $50 in tax (sales tax out here is 9.5% which isn’t so bad when you consider there is no income tax out here.)

    What concerns me is will this be applied to purchases made through the mail too? I buy most of my ammo online and have it shipped to my apartment anymore so I’m curious if this is going to be worded in a way where it would impact that at all. If not It’s going to suck for that one dealer in Seattle but but not for anyone else at all.

  2. A successful court challenge on constitutional grounds to this is likely to put Pittman–Robertson on thin ice. Be careful what you wish for.

    1. I wonder if any on our side would file suit against the Pittman Robertson tax. It is generally viewed as a net positive.

  3. Not seeing the problem – looks like a “business opportunity” to me!

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