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Seattle City Council To Vote On Gun Violence Measures

About two dozen gun retailers are located in Seattle. Opponents of the proposed tax on sales of firearms and ammunition say it would cause buyers and ultimately shops to go outside the city.
Elaine Thompson
AP Photo

Seattle’s City Council will take aim at gun violence Monday with a vote on a pair of gun safety measures. One would tax sales of firearms and ammunition. The other would require owners to report lost or stolen guns.

City Council President Tim Burgess proposed the measures. The former Seattle police detective says firearms put an undue burden on communities.

“Gun violence begets gun violence,” Burgess said, “which is a huge problem in our city and frankly in our entire state. And we’re trying to take common sense, reasonable steps to address that.”   

He argues getting sellers to chip in to break the cycle of violence is one such step.

The revenue from the tax would be dedicated to prevention programs and research, such as was carried out in 2013 by doctors at Seattle’s Harborview Medical center, where last year alone, the city says the cost for treating victims of shootings totaled $17 million.

With City Council funding, those researchers found that victims of gun violence were 30 times more likely than other people admitted to the hospital to end up back in the hospital for another firearm injury . That data led to the development of an intervention program that the council says has shown promising results in other cities. But they need more funding to get it started here.

The registry would require that individual gun owners report the loss or theft of any firearm within 24 hours or face a $500 fine. Currently, federal law only requires such reporting from licensed firearms businesses.

The city estimates the measures will bring in between $300,000-500,000 per year.

Gun rights advocates counter that charging $25 on each sale of a firearm and five cents per round of ammunition will cause buyers to leave the city and ultimately cost Seattle more than it would bring in.  

Burgess, who says he personally keeps no firearms at home, says driving the city's 22 dealers out is not the intent of the proposals, but that the city will keep an eye on unintended consequences. He says the focus is on minimizing the harm that gun violence causes. 

“And we do this in a lot of situations involving public health, " Burgess said, arguing that it's worked with  smoking and cigarettes as well as with automobile safety, primarily through seat belts and awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving.

"We can do exactly the same thing with gun violence, when it's viewed through a public health lense, ” he said.   

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to