Gun, ammunition tax proposed by Tacoma council member

Should there be a tax on guns in Tacoma?

One city council member wants to see one.

Ryan Mello proposed a firearms and ammunition tax in a letter to the council on Thursday.

The tax is based on a current Seattle model and consists of a $25 tax per firearm sold at retail, in addition to a $.02 per round of ammunition .22 caliber or less, and $.05 per round of other ammunition sold at retail.

“This isn’t just about mass shootings,” Mello told The News Tribune on Friday. “Gun violence happens in urban centers like Tacoma all the time, and they’re really ripping communities apart.”

A third tier would include a higher tax on high-velocity ammunition, such as “hollow point bullets.”

“They’re designed to pierce through body armor with the intent to kill somebody,” Mello said.

Exemptions would be made for persons who sell no more than one firearm or fifty rounds of ammunition per quarter, as well as an exemption for law enforcement.

The funds from the tax would be directed toward violence prevention programs in the city, Mello said. Part of the request asks the city manager to bring forward recommendations in the next 75 days.

Mello mentioned partnering with Pierce County, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and Rising Above Influence (RAIN) to strategize potential programs like community court and gang violence reduction.

Mello’s request comes after recent shootings, including several in Tacoma this month. Mello’s letter was also signed by Mayor Victoria Woodards and Council member Catherine Ushka.

“We talk about gun violence a lot and I know my colleagues are eager to find solutions,” Mello said. “This is about continuing a serious and deliberative conversion.”

The council will discuss the topic at a study session meeting on Tuesday. If an ordinance is adopted by council, the tax would be implemented on Jan. 1, 2020.

Mello said the proposed tax is not about punishing lawful gun owners.

“This is about making our community safer,” he said.

An earlier version of this story described hollow point bullets as “military-style.” Hollow point bullets are not used by the military.