Guest Opinion: Tacoma’s tax solutions on guns and ammo don’t add up


By Lawrence Keane

Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello wants a Seattle-style tax on firearms and ammunition for his city. While he claims this will make the community safer, it is really meant to drive out businesses that are integral to this community.

Mello’s proposal will import Seattle’s $25 tax on every firearm and 2-cent-per-round tax on .22-caliber ammunition and 5-cent-per-round on larger calibers. He’ll plan to spend what little revenue this is likely to generate on reducing criminal misuse of firearms. This plan failed in Seattle and will only penalize the law-abiding citizens of Tacoma.

Seattle promised their tax plan would bring in $500,000 annually to the city but immediately fell short. The first year of its adoption in 2016 brought in a sum just shy of $104,000. In 2017, that number dwindled to just $93,000. During that same time, though, firearms retailers in Seattle shuttered their businesses and moved away. Gun stores dropped from 40 to 32.

Seattle believed taxing guns and ammunition was the solution to reduce crime. Unsurprisingly, it’s had the opposite effect. Seattle’s police chief reported that complaints of shots fired in the city rose 65 percent and recorded crimes involving firearms dropped by just six percent.

Mello won’t admit that criminals who misuse guns are not obtaining them from lawful and federally regulated firearms businesses. In fact, the Department of Justice reportedthat 90 percent of criminals obtain guns outside of retail shops, such as through theft or the black market.

So, what’s the real effect of Mello’s misguided plan? He’s risking the jobs, salaries, taxes, and cooperative contributions that firearms manufacturers and retailers bring to the Tacoma economy.

Aero Precision, a firearms manufacturer in Tacoma, employs 400 people – 300 of whom are based throughout five buildings right in Tacoma and more than half of whom live in the city, making day-to-day contributions to the well-being of the community. Councilman Mello, however, has made it clear he wants to drive this business, and others like it, out of town so Tacoma can reap a small revenue of $93,000-$104,000 in new taxes.

Other numbers the city council must consider include: the average annual Aero Precision salary of $45, 825; $80,000 in business and occupation tax paid by to Tacoma; $3 million paid by Aero Precision in payroll taxes; $450,000 in Washington sales tax paid by us; and $50,000 in Aero Precision’s property tax.

Including, but not limited to, the numbers above, Aero Precision pays Tacoma $12 million in tax revenue and has grown ten-fold in just five years. They were awardedWashington’s 2017 Manufacturers of the Year for Large Firms and, next year, the company expects to grow another 20 percent.

Aero Precision’s commitment to improving Tacoma is undeniable. Their relationship with law enforcement starts with the Tacoma Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff Department, and Washington State Patrol. It extends to departments at Bonney Lake, Federal Way, Centralia, Chelahis, Edmonds, Algona, Black Diamond, and Cowlitz Tribal Police. They enjoy strong ties with sheriffs in Spokane and Grant Counties.

Aero Precision’s commitment to a real answer is its partnership with the National Shooting Sports Foundation and its Real SolutionsSM campaign. These programs are paid for by members of the firearms industry to make all our communities safer, including matching rewards to bring gun thieves to justice, helping to stop illegal gun purchases, improving the background check system, reducing suicides, and distributing more than 38 million safety kits with a free gun lock across the country including right here in Tacoma.

Mello is willing to ignore real solutions and trade economic benefits for failed policy. A viable solution like NSSF’s won’t cost Tacoma jobs or taxes and takes real steps towards making Tacoma a safer community.

Lawrence Keane is the Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.

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