Seattle to lose gun store tax revenue
Seattle’s new tax on firearms and ammunition sales took effect Jan. 1, and the owner of one of the city’s few gun stores says he’s moving his business to avoid paying it.
Sergey Solyanik said Monday he’s close to signing a lease that will allow him to move Precise Shooter from Aurora Avenue North, near Green Lake, to Lynnwood.
Solyanik and other foes of the tax filed a notice of appeal Monday, after a King County Superior Court judge dismissed their lawsuit against the tax last month.
The plaintiffs include the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and two gun owners.
Solyanik said he believes a state court of appeals will overturn Judge Palmer Robinson’s ruling. But he’s not waiting for that outcome before picking up stakes.
“Selling firearms is no longer feasible in Seattle, so we’re moving north,” he said.
Solyanik already has stopped selling guns and ammo at Precise Shooter. He’s only stocking items not subject to the tax, such as reloading equipment and cleaning supplies.
The store paid Seattle about $50,000 in regular sales taxes last year, Solyanik said.
“That’s going to be gone,” he said.
When the City Council voted unanimously in August to tax gun sellers $25 per gun and 2 or 5 cents per round of ammunition, Councilmember Tim Burgess said it would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for gun-violence research and prevention.
Solyanik and others argued the tax would raise little because it would force sellers to shut down or leave town.
There were 22 licensed firearms dealers operating in the city when officials drawing up the tax checked; many are pawnshops or individuals serving as middlemen for Internet gun sales.
Three were Big 5 Sporting Goods locations.
Outdoor Emporium, a hunting, fishing and camping store in Sodo and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Seattle, didn’t return a request for comment Monday.
Discount Gun Sales in Lake City is not part of the lawsuit. It also didn’t return a request for comment.
The plaintiffs said Seattle officials are using the tax as a workaround to do something they have no authority to do. A state law prohibits cities from regulating firearms.
Robinson sided with the city, which argued taxation is distinct from regulation and said the point of the tax is to raise money — not to discourage gun sales.
“The NRA and its allies always oppose these common-sense steps to shine light on the gun-violence epidemic,” Burgess said last month. “But in Seattle it is different.”
Solyanik said he’s eager to see the appeals court take up the question. He said the tax is unfair to responsible gun owners and an abuse of power by local officials.
“This has to play out because this is much bigger than guns. This is unprecedented. What the city is saying is that you can use a tax as a vehicle for regulation,” he said.
Solyanik said he plans to also open Precise Shooter locations on the Eastside and south of Seattle, and to open a new store in Seattle if the appeal is successful.
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