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Senseless in Seattle.

(November 12, 2015) The city of Seattle, Wash., passed an ordinance this summer that imposes a $25 tax on every gun sold in the city, and 5 cents on each round of ammunition. Not only is the law senseless, it's a huge waste of taxpayers' money, and it's patently illegal. The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), based just outside of Seattle, has already filed suit, along with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Rifle Association, two Seattle gun stores, and a pair of local residents, to block the city's action. This is not the first time SAF has taken Seattle to court. Just a few years ago SAF had to sue to block an ordinance banning legal guns in city parks. They won that suit, and it is very likely that they and their co-plaintiffs will win this new one as well, because the state has a long-standing preemption law that is very clear and unequivocal. It says that regulation of firearms is the exclusive purview of the State Legislature, and any law, ordinance, or regulation that is firearm-related must go through that body.

Seattle's latest attempted workaround is to claim that they are not regulating firearms or ammunition, merely taxing them under their normal taxing authority. Courts all over the country have repeatedly rejected this sort of pedantic claim, noting that the operative result of the law, and indeed its openly stated intent, is to limit and impact the purchase and ownership of firearms and ammunition. Even if these taxes were strictly intended as revenue generators, they would still be in violation of the preemption law. But since the tax is billed as a "public safety" measure, there is no basis whatsoever for the claim that it is not intended to infringe on the legislature's exclusive firearm territory.

It is probably no accident that the tactic being employed by Seattle--regulation through taxation--is the same tactic Congress used to get around the Second Amendment back in 1934 when they passed the National Firearms Act. Like Seattle's leaders today. Congress knew that they did not have the authority to enact their restrictive legislation, but they used the convoluted tax ploy anyway. The big difference is that back in 1934 there was no one particularly interested in trying to block Congress's unconstitutional action. By 1939, when a case finally worked its way through the courts to the Supreme Court (U.S. v. Miller) the restrictions were fairly well established and the justices were looking for a way to avoid nullifying the law. The method they chose was to claim that they didn't think short-barreled shotguns were normally used in the militia, and therefore weren't protected under the Second Amendment.

The ruling wasn't particularly bad, though there were several flaws in it, but it allowed the NFA to stand, and every Second Amendment case for the next 70 years was basically dismissed based on a misconstruction of the Miller ruling. Some of that misconstruction was finally corrected with the Heller and McDonald cases in 2008 and 2010, but judges now twist and distort those decisions, and so far, the Supreme Court has refused to revisit the issue.

Some Washington judges might want to be just as creative with Seattle's new gun and ammo tax, but it's not that easy Where there was virtually no opposition to the NFA in 1934, today there are three well-funded, powerful organizations, backed by dozens of dedicated grass-roots groups, vociferously opposed to the Seattle scheme. But the Seattle politicians and their lawyers are forging ahead, spending untold thousands of the taxpayers' dollars on another case that they should have no chance of winning, to defend a law which, if it is allowed to stand, will have no effect on violent crime. But of course, reducing crime has never really been the issue or the objective of gun control zealots. Making guns and gun ownership difficult, expensive, legally risky, and socially unacceptable is the goal. The real motivation behind the ordinance is an irrational fear of guns and gun owners.

The only real concern in this case is that Washington judges, including those on the State Supreme Court, are elected to their positions, and since Washington politics is dominated by two ultra-liberal, urban counties, while the rest of the state is staunchly conservative, Seattle could end up winning this case in spite of the law. If they do, it will be a travesty that will widen the chasm between Seattle and most of the state. While I have confidence in the SAF legal team and their allies, there's no beating a stacked court, so I hope Washington gun owners have been paying attention to their ballots when it comes to electing judges.

What about judges in your state? Who have you been electing to judgeships? Judges matter, and most people don't have a clue about the judges they vote for. There are resources available-most with an agenda of their own-so it's up to you to sift through the information and pick the people who will ultimately decide your laws.

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Title Annotation:THE KNOX UPDATE: From The Firearms Coalition
Author:Knox, Jeff
Publication:Firearms News
Date:Apr 20, 2016
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