Debate Magazine

Seattle City Council Member Ready to Pull Trigger on Gun Tax

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

Another liberal with a great solution to gun violence… One Seattle City Council member wants the gun industry (translation: law-abiding gun owners) to foot the bill for what he says is a “public health epidemic.”

“This is a very simple, common sense measure to help us mitigate gun violence,” Council member Tim Burgess told KIRO Radio’s Seattle’s Morning News.

The “common sense measure” is actually two pieces of legislation currently proposed and filtering through the council’s committees. They will be discussed next at the Education and Governance Committee on July 15.

The first bill would establish a tax on each firearm and each bullet sold in Seattle. The second would require, by law, that gun owners report any lost or stolen firearms to the Seattle Police Department within 24 hours of the discovery. Failure to report would result in a fine of $500.

“It has several benefits,” Burgess said. “First of all, it helps police trace guns used in crimes. Second, it allows police to return firearms to their rightful owner. And I think, very importantly, it precludes gun owners from being falsely implicated in crimes involving their weapon if that should occur later.” Burgess notes that nine other states have such mandatory reporting requirements.

The proposed gun tax would have firearms sellers pay $25 for every gun and 5 cents for every round of ammunition sold. Proceeds from the tax would be used to fund prevention programs and research for reducing gun violence. Should the tax be approved, it is estimated to raise between $300,000 and $500,000, according to Seattle’s budget office.

“We tax cigarettes, we tax alcohol, even wood-burning stoves, to mitigate the impact of those products on our public health. We should certainly do it for guns and ammunition as well,” Burgess said. “Last year alone, in 2014, 253 people were admitted to Harborview [Medical Center] with gunshot injuries. That costs the taxpayers in our region $12 million.” (No citation noted.)

Burgess said he didn’t know how easily the bills will pass, but did express confidence that they will indeed become local law. “I never predict what my colleagues will do, but I am fairly confident that these measures will pass,” he said.

Mayor Ed Murray has already expressed support for the bills in an online statement. “I want to thank Councilmember Burgess for his leadership. We know the people of Seattle demand action on this issue, not more talk,” Murray said.

The city has promoted a variety of reasons to back up the proposed legislation. The Seattle Police Department has processed 2,657 firearms in its evidence locker since 2012. Since that time, 69 percent of homicides, 17 percent of robberies, and 8 percent of aggravated assaults in Seattle have involved guns.

According to the city, Harborview Medical Center was forced to develop an intervention program for reducing gun violence due to the considerable number of patients with gun wounds. The program is also partially the result of a city-funded 2013 study on gun violence.

Someone admitted to Harborview for a gunshot injury is 30 times more likely to be readmitted for an additional gunshot injury than other non-injury patients admitted to the hospital,” Burgess said. “That finding, and many others in that study, shows that gun violence begets gun violence. I think it’s reasonable and common sense to ask the gun industry to help defray those costs.

Proceeds from the gun tax are proposed to help fund Harborview’s program for gun violence, which is patterned after the hospital’s program for alcohol-related injuries started in the early ’90s, according to Burgess.

“That program was so successful that it is now the mandatory best practice at trauma centers all over the United States,” he said. “And it reduces alcohol-related injuries by half. What if we could accomplish the same for gun violence? That would be a huge benefit for our city and our region.”

I’m all for reporting stolen guns. What responsible gun owner wouldn’t want to do that?

But if Mr. Burgess really believes that criminals buy their guns legally and will contribute to the monetary fund for the “public health epidemic”, well:



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