National Rifle Association sues Seattle over 'gun violence' tax

Attendees visit the trade booths during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 11, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups sued Seattle on Monday over a new tax on firearms and ammunition sales, arguing the city had violated a Washington state law barring municipalities from enacting local firearms regulations.

Earlier this month, Seattle City Council unanimously approved a "gun violence tax" on sellers of firearms and ammunition, directing proceeds toward violence prevention programs and research beginning in January. A companion measure requires gun owners to report cases of lost and stolen firearms to police.

"The Seattle ordinance is nothing but a 'poll tax' on the Second Amendment and an effort to drive Seattle's firearms retailers out of business," said National Shooting Sports Foundation General Counsel Lawrence Keane, a plaintiff.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday in King County Superior Court, argues that Washington state law bars municipalities from creating their own gun regulations, the NRA said.

In 2009, Seattle City Council passed regulations that prohibited the carrying of firearms in city parks, an ordinance that was struck down in 2012 by the state's highest court, the NRA said.

The only other municipality in the country with an individual tax on gun sales is Chicago, the NRA said.

"The City believes it is well within its legal authority to tax the sales of firearms and ammunition and will vigorously defend the ordinance in court," said Kimberly Mills, spokeswoman for City Attorney Pete Holmes.

Peter Lavallee, a spokesman for Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, said Ferguson was looking into the lawsuit.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)