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Seattle Gun Tax Fails to Generate Projected Revenue, Succeeds in Burdening Rights

On March 16, 2017, the Seattle Times reported that Seattle city officials were reluctant to release data on the revenue generated by the city’s firearms and ammunition tax, citing taxpayer confidentiality concerns. Less than a week later, we now know the more likely reason that Seattle failed to disclose this tax revenue; because the money raised fell woefully short of the figure projected by supporters of the tax.

In July 2015, Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess proposed legislation he dubbed a “Gun Violence Tax,” contending that “It’s time for the gun industry to help defray” the cost of criminal violence perpetrated with guns. Burgess’s proposal was unanimously passed by the city council on August 10, 2015. The legislation imposed a $25 tax on firearm sales, a $.02 per round tax on .22 and smaller caliber ammunition, and a $.05 per round tax on ammunition greater than .22 caliber. The revenue was intended to be used to fund anti-gun research at the Harborview Medical Center.

On August 24, 2015, NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the Second Amendment Foundation filed suit in King County Superior Court to prevent the city from enforcing the new tax. NRA’s complaint pointed out that the tax violates the Second Amendment and is also impermissible under Washington law. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that governments are not permitted to attack constitutionally-protected conduct through taxation. In the First Amendment context, the Court struck down a Minnesota use tax on ink and paper used in publishing. In that case – Minneapolis Star Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue – the Court warned that “A power to tax differentially, as opposed to a power to tax generally, gives a government a powerful weapon against the taxpayer selected.”

Washington’s firearms preemption statute also bars Seattle’s tax. Section 9.41.290 of the Revised Code of Washington states,

The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components.

and,

Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are preempted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.

Washington law does provide a small number of specific exemptions to the state firearm preemption statute, but these concern local zoning in relating to firearms dealers, carry in certain municipal buildings, and the discharge of firearms.

Despite the plain language of Washington’s preemption statute, in December 2015 King County Superior Court Judge Palmer Robinson upheld Seattle’s tax. NRA and our allies have appealed the court’s decision, and the case now sits with the Washington State Supreme Court.

In advocating for the tax, Burgess and other supporters of the legislation repeatedly cited figures from the City Budget Office that claimed the tax would raise between $300,000 and $500,000 a year. In an email to the Times this week, Burgess confessed, “During its first year, the firearms and ammunition tax payments received by the City were less than $200,000.” It is not clear how much less than $200,000 the city collected.

According to the Times, to come up with the outlandish $300,000-$500,000 figure, the City Budget Office “obtained the annual number of background checks for gun sales in Washington. Then they looked up what percentage of Washington’s licensed gun dealers were in Seattle and used that to guess the number of firearms sales in the city.” In addition to the fact that its analysis was too rudimentary to offer an accurate estimate of gun sales in Seattle, the budget office appears to have made no attempt to predict the impact the significant tax would have on the behavior of gun dealers and buyers.

Making this projection appear even more ridiculous is that the 2016 tax shortfall occurred in a year that witnessed record gun sales nationally and in the Evergreen State. In 2016, there were 713,996 NICS background checks conducted in Washington, whereas the 2015 total was 502,280. Washingtonians were buying plenty of guns in 2016, but as many predicted when the tax was proposed, not in Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

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Taking on the Sandy Hook Truthers: What Kind of Person Calls a Mass Shooting a Hoax? 

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This article originally appeared in The Trace.

Mike Spies writes: A year and a half after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Lenny Pozner called to set up a meeting with Wolfgang Halbig. The 68-year-old security consultant was the de facto leader of a community of conspiracy theorists, known as hoaxers, who claimed that the shooting had been staged by the government. To the hoaxers, the 26 victims — one of whom was Pozner’s six-year-old son, Noah — were fictional characters.

“Ever since his son’s death, Pozner had been dealing with the hoaxers. It was his habit to regularly post photos of Noah, a happy boy with soft blue eyes and a wide smile, on his Google Plus page. He would put up pictures of Noah hugging his twin sister, or playing on the beach…The hoaxers would see these images and offer comments: ‘Where’s Noah going to die next?'”

It was May 28, 2014, and Pozner, an IT consultant, was in Florida on business. He hoped to sit down with Halbig at a coffee shop near his home in Orlando, Florida. He wanted to talk to him face-to-face about Noah, who was his only son and never far from his mind. On December 14, 2012, the day of the shooting, Pozner had been the one to drop Noah off at school. As they drove, they listened to “Gangnam Style,” Noah’s favorite song. When they arrived, Pozner said, “Have a fun day,” and watched as his child headed inside, fiddling with his backpack and brown jacket.

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“Pozner was one of the rare Sandy Hook parents who confronted those who questioned his child’s murder. In response to their comments, he posted online his son’s birth and death certificates. He shared the medical examiner’s report and one of Noah’s report cards. The hoaxers said the records were counterfeits.”

Ever since his son’s death, Pozner had been dealing with the hoaxers. It was his habit to regularly post photos of Noaha happy boy with soft blue eyes and a wide smile,on his Google Plus page. He would put up pictures of Noah hugging his twin sister, or playing on the beach, or showing off the tooth he lost less than two weeks before he was murdered. The hoaxers would see these images and offer comments: “Where’s Noah going to die next?” read one.Another commenter, seemingly believing that Pozner had been recruited to help perpetuate the myth of the shooting, asked, “How much do you get paid?”

[Read the full story here, at VICE]

 Pozner was one of the rare Sandy Hook parents who confronted those who questioned his child’s murder. In response to their comments, he posted online his son’s birth and death certificates. He shared the medical examiner’s report and one of Noah’s report cards. The hoaxers said the records were counterfeits.

Lenny Pozner in an undated photo with his son, Noah.

“Every modern atrocity or disaster has its attendant conspiracy theories. Their shared thesis is that governments, needing a way to keep the populace in fear, orchestrate mock calamities, using the tools of the state to cover their tracks.”

Pozner remained undaunted. He thought that perhaps if he could show Halbig the documents in person, he and the rest of the hoaxers might at last relent. “I wanted to be as transparent as possible,” Pozner says. “I thought keeping the documents private would only feed the conspiracy.”

Within 24 hours of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, videos claiming the event was “staged” surfaced on Youtube and received thousands of clicks.”

When Pozner did not receive a reply from Halbig, he contacted Kelley Watt, one of the more aggressive hoaxers who showed up on his Google Plus page. Watt wrote back on Halbig’s behalf. “Wolfgang does not wish to speak with you,” her note said, “unless you exhume Noah’s body and prove to the world you lost your son.”

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Giving up on a meeting with Halbig, Pozner looked to engage in some sort of dialogue with the people who, around this time, made him their chief target. (One video montage that started making the rounds showed images of Noah set to a soundtrack of pornographic sounds.) In June 2014, Pozner accepted an invitation to join a private Facebook group called Sandy Hook Hoax. He told its members that he was willing to answer their questions. “I think I lasted all of eight minutes,” he recalls. One participant said, “Man, I’m gonna have to coach you up if you wanna go on TV and make money Lenny.” Another typical attacker proclaimed,”Fuck your fake family, you piece of shit.”

Pozner eventually realized that, for Halbig and his brethren, this was a game without end. His efforts to combat them became a mission. “I’m going to have to protect Noah’s honor for the rest of my life,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »


Oregon Sheriff: ‘Gun Control is NOT the Answer’, and Residents Agree

Sheriff John Hanlin informed the vice president he didn’t plan to enforce any laws he found unconstitutional. His deputies wouldn’t either.

Marisa Gerbe writes: “I think that’s the worst thing in the world that can happen,” said Kellim, 86, who runs KC’s Exchange gun shop out of her home.

The words “2nd Amendment” are pasted in a decal onto her front door and there’s a Rifle Range Street nearby. In Roseburg, deer antlers line people’s driveways and locals hardly notice the pop-pop-pop of gunfire from nearby shooting ranges.

“What I fear most, is that we’re going to create criminals … out of some of our most ordinary, normal, law-abiding citizens.”

“This is hunting territory,” Kellim said, smiling proudly. Her views about guns — and who should be able to buy them — didn’t change, she said, when a gunman shot and killed nine people and wounded at least nine others at Umpqua Community College not far from her home.

Iconic sign at the East Wind Drive In, Cascade Locks, Oregon

“Watch, listen, and keep an open mind.”

In Connecticut, state leaders called for stricter firearm laws after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

People in Tucson rallied behind then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who became a loud supporter of gun reform after surviving a 2011 shooting at a grocery store.

[Read the full story here, at the LA Times]

And when a 22-year-old man stabbed and shot several students in Santa Barbara County last year, one of the victims’ fathers, who grew up hunting, went on every national TV station that invited him and begged for stricter gun laws.

Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian Dick and Gloria Shafer, pictured with their 9-year-old son, John, run an excavation business in Elgin. They are so frightened of drug violence, especially after a triple homicide at their town, that they say they sleep with handguns close at hand. Gloria Shafer keeps her 9 mm gun under her pillow.

Ross William Hamilton/The Oregonian. Dick and Gloria Shafer, pictured with their 9-year-old son, John, run an excavation business in Elgin. They are so frightened of drug violence, especially after a triple homicide at their town, that they say they sleep with handguns close at hand. Gloria Shafer keeps her 9 mm gun under her pillow.

The tone in Roseburg is different.

An ex-girlfriend of a surviving victim scoffed at the idea of tightening gun laws, and Kendra Godon, an elementary education student who hid from the shooting in a nearby classroom, said she hoped her community’s tragedy wouldn’t get spun into the national debate about firearms.

“That’s not the issue,” she said.

John Hanlin, Douglas County’s sheriff and the public face of the community since the shooting, is also an outspoken critic of increasing gun control.

On his work biography, the broad-shouldered lawman who once attended Umpqua Community College lists three interests: fishing, riding his Harley and hunting.

biden-shaking-fist

When Vice President Joe Biden asked for stricter gun laws after the Newtown killings, Hanlin decided to speak up.

He wrote Biden a letter. Read the rest of this entry »


Gun Sales See Best Summer Ever 

Utah-Gun-Show-AP

New record: the most checks ever performed in any August since the creation of the National Instant Background Check System.

 reports: Gun sales were at an all-time high in June, July, and August, according More-guns-less-crimeto one metric.

[See John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) at Amazon]

This August saw 1.7 million background checks performed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives on new gun sales, the most checks ever performed in any August since the creation of the National Instant Background Check System.

obamagunsalesmanoftheyear

“Whenever there is a call for gun control, sales increase. Unfortunately, this is a pattern that repeats itself.”emily-gun

— Larry Keane

[Order Emily Miller’s book “Emily Gets Her Gun” from Amazon]

The agency performed 1.6 million checks in July, the high for that month. They did a further 1.5 million in June, another all-time high. Read the rest of this entry »


Smoke and Mirrors: Seattle Sales Tax

This week, the NRA, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), firearms retailers, and private gun owners filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, alleging that its new firearms and ammunition sales tax ordinance is illegal and unenforceable.

campus-censorship

“Overdose and non-gun suicide hospitalizations each occurred at a rate more than five times that of those involving a gun; hospitalizations for ‘injuries due to accidents’ had a rate almost seventy-five times greater.  With stats like these, it’s clear that anti-gun sentiment is the only thing driving the new taxes, not any real desire to address public health concerns of city residents.”

Earlier this month, Seattle passed the Firearm Tax and Ammunition Tax ordinance which imposes a new $25 sales tax on the retail sales of firearms, plus a per-round sales tax of two to five cents on ammunition.  The ordinance is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2016. A failure to pay the tax is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to 364 days, or both.

[See John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) at Amazon]

A city report describes this as a “gun violence tax” that is estimated to generate revenues of $300,000 to $500,000 per year. The report adds, “[e]very effort funded by the revenues of this tax that reduces the probability of gun violence from taking place will save lives and money… Efforts funded by the gun violence tax that mitigate the public health, welfare, and safety impacts of gun violence will benefit this population.”

“In 2011, the Court of Appeals of Washington looked no further than the ‘plain language’ of the preemption statute before concluding that Seattle’s attempt to regulate the possession of firearms was unlawful. The complaint in the new lawsuit refers to this decision and states the City of Seattle is ‘not permitted to pass laws that target the sale of firearms and ammunition through any means.’”

The report fails to disclose any clear relationship between expected new tax receipts and a reduction in violence of any kind. The report asserts only that efforts funded by the tax which “reduce[] the probability of gun violence from taking place” will benefit Seattle residents, without identifying the nature of the “research, prevention and youth education and employment programs” or how these programs will work to reduce the “probability” of gun violence. (The report does confirm, though, that the City will be able “to track how much revenue is raised each year and analyze the programs to which that revenue is dedicated.”)

A group of local public school teachers from nearby schools use rubber training guns as they practice proper firearms handling during a teachers-only firearms training class offered for free at the Veritas Training Academy in Sarasota, Florida January 11, 2013. The December 14 tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has sparked a national debate about whether to arm teachers, prompting passionate arguments on both sides. REUTERS/Brian Blanco (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS EDUCATION)

“Citizens testifying before the City Council meeting on the new tax included a recent victim of a violent felony who was ‘appalled’ that the City was enacting an illegal tax that would force law-abiding citizens to pay for the impact of gun violence committed by criminals.”

The ordinance itself cites a 2014 study funded by the City of Seattle which reported, among other things, King County hospitalization rates due to a firearm-related injury (“of any intent,” presumably including self-inflicted and accidental injuries in addition to persons who were injured as victims of crime), and hospitalizations for other reasons.

[Order Emily Miller’s book “Emily Gets Her Gun” from Amazon]

Hospitalizations due to overdoses, non-gun suicides, and non-gun assaults were far more prevalent than gun-related hospitalizations. Overdose and non-gun suicide hospitalizations each occurred at a rate more than five times that of those involving a gun; hospitalizations for “injuries due to accidents” had a rate almost seventy-five times greater.  With stats like these, it’s clear that anti-gun sentiment is the only thing driving the new taxes, not any real desire to address public health concerns of city residents. Read the rest of this entry »


Legally Unenforceable: Seattle’s Self-Inflicted ‘Gun Violence Tax’ Draws NRA Lawsuit

selfie-gun

Seattle’s tax, which would take effect in January, would add $25 to the price of each firearm sold in the city.

SEATTLE (AP) — Gene Johnson reports: Three gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, sued the city of Seattle on Monday over its adoption of a so-called “gun violence tax,” a tax on firearms and ammunition designed to help offset
the financial toll of gun violence.

[See John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) at Amazon]

The complaint was filed Monday in King County Superior Court by the NRA, the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, along with two gun owners and two gun shops. It called the tax legally unenforceable because Washington state prohibits local governments from adopting laws related to firearms unless those local ordinances are specifically authorized by the state.

“The ordinance serves only as a piece of propaganda, because the ordinance’s mandates are legally unenforceable. The state of Washington has the exclusive right to regulate the sale of firearms in Washington, and cities may not enact local laws or regulations related to the sale of firearms.”

“The ordinance serves only as a piece of propaganda, because the ordinance’s mandates are legally unenforceable,” the lawsuit said. “The state of Washington has the exclusive right to regulate the sale of firearms in Washington, and cities may not enact local laws or regulations related to the sale of firearms.”

[Order Emily Miller’s book “Emily Gets Her Gun” from Amazon]

The Seattle City Council unanimously approved the tax this month, along with a companion measure requiring gun owners to file reports if their weapons are stolen or lost. The lawsuit does not challenge the reporting requirements. City Attorney Pete Holmes has argued that the gun-violence tax falls squarely under Seattle’s taxing authority. Read the rest of this entry »


Survey: Majority of Americans Not Interested in Gun Control for 2016

handgun-getty

AWR Hawkins writes:

…According to Suffolk University, in addition to not wanting to hear about gun control in 2016, a majority of Americans do not believe increasing gun control via expanded background checks will curb mass violence. Fifty-six percent of respondents said it would not, while only 40 percent of Emily-Gets-Her-Gun-But-Obama-Wants-to-Take-Yoursrespondents said it would.

This makes sense, when you consider that Roof allegedly purchased his gun via a background check at a Charleston gun store.

[Order Emily Miller’s book “Emily Gets Her Gun” from Amazon]

This poll comes nearly seven months after a PEW Research Poll showed that American attitudes toward gun control had shifted to a place where the majority of Americans wanted protection of gun rights rather than passage of more gun control. Released on December 10, the PEW Poll showed that 52 percent of Americans were concerned with protecting gun rights while 46 percent were concerned with passing more gun control. Read the rest of this entry »


Who’s the Driving Force in Nation’s Shift from Gun Control to Gun Rights? Women

BANG-woman-gun

Women Are Buying More Guns Than Ever

AWR Hawkins writes: Women have emerged as one of the fastest-growing demographics of new gun buyers and concealed carry permit holders in the country, and in the process, they have become a driving force in the shift in American attitudes from pro-gun control to pro-gun rights.women-with-guns-ryanlatta-flickr

“This growing participation of women in firearm purchases and firearm-related activities has not happened overnight. Rather, it has been steadily increasing over a number of years.”

In January, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that “women [are] buying more guns than ever.” And the result of this surge in women gun buyers has been an expansion of firearms and firearms accessories made to cater to the female market. Many of the accessories are often designed and marketed by fellow women gun owners.

woman-gun-practice

“The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that this is not only providing new markets for the gun industry and expanding the number of concealed carry permits issued to women, but also impacting Americans’ views on guns and gun rights.”

This growing participation of women in firearm purchases and firearm-related activities has not happened overnight. Rather, it has been steadily increasing over a number of years. For example, the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that 2011 and 2012 showed the surge beginning with a “79 percent … increase in female” customers buying firearms and/or firearm accessories. The trend has continued from that point. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Finally Credited for Something Positive: Record U.S. Gun Production

girl-brick-armedFor BloombergSteven Komarow  writes:  U.S. gun makers led by Sturm Ruger & Co. and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (SWHC) churned out a record number of firearms in 2012, government data show, continuing a trend of robust production during Democratic presidencies.

“Barack Obama is the stimulus package for the firearms industry”

— Dave Workman

More than 8.57 million guns were produced in 2012, up 31 percent from 6.54 million in 2011, according to data released this week by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been tracking the statistics since 1986.

Almost as many guns — 26.1 million — were produced during Democrat Barack Obama’s first term as president as during the entire eight-year presidency of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, the ATF data show.

[Order John R. Lott‘s highly-regarded book: More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition” (Studies in Law and Economics) from Amazon]

Advocates on both sides of the gun-control debate said manufacturers were meeting demand fueled by concerns among gun owners that Democratic presidents are more willing to limit firearms sales than Republicans. After years of steering clear of the issue, Obama pressed unsuccessfully last year for stricter gun measures in the wake of the 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The production boom has resulted in strong sales and profits for gun companies, including Sturm & Ruger and Smith & Wesson.

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Useful Gun Owner Links: 

Read the rest of this entry »


Poll: Majority of Americans Oppose Expanding Background Checks at Gun Shows

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AWR Hawkins reports:  A poll conducted by McKeon & Associates and released on December 23 by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) shows that “53 percent” of Americans oppose expanding background checks at gun shows.

The percentage of Americans who support expanding background checks sits at 40.

According to the NSSF, these numbers “stand in contrast to the vague claim often reported in the media that ’90 percent of Americans surveyed support [expanded background checks].'”

Support for these expanded checks has been in a slide since hitting a high in January of this year. And NSSF says the drop in support has largely been due to people learning that we already background checks in place. As Breitbart News reported on March 31, the 1993 Brady Bill mandated the start of background checks under Bill Clinton.

Read the rest of this entry »


Buying Guns on Black Friday Becomes Tradition Under Obama

woman-rifle-store

Gun sales may have leveled off after the spectacular surge early this year, but now we have a new holiday tradition. 

AWR Hawkins writes: Although much of the gun control push under President Obama has failed to result in new laws, it has succeeded in creating a new tradition where shoppers scoop up guns on Black Friday so they can place them under the tree on Christmas Day.

Consider the numbers: in 2008, ABC News reported 97,848 background checks on Black Friday. In 2009, the numbers remained somewhat static but then began to grow exponentially as the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats began to flex their muscles.  By 2011, there were 129,166 background checks on Black Friday alone.

As the National Shooting Sports Foundation reported, the jump in 2011 marked “a 32.01 percent increase over” the sales on 2008 Black Friday–the year Obama was first elected.

Read the rest of this entry »


America’s new target shooters: Younger, female and urban

America’s new target shooters: Younger, female and urban

by Guns and Gear

The face of America’s target shooters is changing. New target shooters–those who have taken up the sport in the last five years–are younger, female and urban when compared to established target shooters, or those participating for more than five years, according to a survey commissioned by NSSF.

Read the rest of this entry »