City postpones vote on gun tax

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By John Larson – jlarson@tacomaweekly.com

Members of Tacoma City Council discussed the proposed tax on firearms and ammunition at the end of the afternoon study session on Oct. 29. A number of changes were examined. One was using the money raised to buy back guns from residents. Another had to do with a company that manufactures a firearms component, and whether or not this item would be subject to the tax. Instead of a tax, the idea of using council contingency funds for the gun education program was examined.

There appeared to be some disagreement among members about how to proceed, as well as concern about amendments being proposed on the day of the scheduled vote, after the topic was first brought up in late August.

The evening meeting drew a large crowd, filling the room and requiring the use of another room for the overflow. The meeting began with a motion to postpone action on the ordinance until Nov. 12. Councilmember Lillian Hunter noted this is “a multifaceted and highly emotional” issue. Mayor Victoria Woodards said she wanted all to fully understand the law, which she felt would not be possible with a number of walk-on amendments. She then called for a recess to allow for those who had come to testify on the issue to leave the chambers.

Councilmember Ryan Mello is the driving force behind the tax, and he issued this statement to explain his stance:

“Gun violence remains a major problem in Tacoma and cities across the country. In 2018 alone there were 682 gun related criminal offense and 22 gun related homicides so far in 2019. 40,000 people die a year to gun violence in America. Cities are on the frontline of the social, community and economic impacts of gun violence. 

“Currently, all non-gun users pay for all of the social, community and economic impacts of gun violence through general funds taxes to fund the various violence intervention and prevention programs, law enforcement and other strategies. That is not fair. Asking gun-users and firearms and ammunitions sellers to pay a modest tax to defray some of the economic and social costs of gun violence, so non-gun users do not have to bear the full brunt of it, only seems fair to me. 

“The opposition is loud and fierce for many reasons. One is because of misinformation spread about the intent and use of the tax. Another is because so many are told by the National Rifle Association that any common-sense reform or tax is a complete violation of their second amendment rights and that could not be more irresponsible. The NRA is also very fired up on this and will do everything they can to kill this ordinance because they fear that when Tacoma is successful, other cities in Washington state and around the country will follow. Other counties and states will follow. They are very scared about that. 

“We need to continue to do what’s right, show courage and use these resources to fund effective gun violence prevention and intervention programs at a bigger scale. When others follow, we will be able to have more financial resources to fund these necessary programs to address gun violence at larger and larger scales. But it starts with one city being brave. Tacoma is that city.”

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