Addressing Gun Safety Issues in Seattle

Council Action on Gun Violence Tax, Mandatory Reporting of Lost and Stolen Firearms

Councilmember Tim Burgess proposed two pieces of legislation as part of the City's latest effort to improve gun safety in Seattle. Both were passed unanimously by the Council.

The first bill would establish a gun violence tax on the sellers of firearms and ammunition in Seattle. The revenue proceeds from the gun violence tax would be dedicated to prevention programs and research intended to reduce the burden of gun violence on Seattle residents and neighborhoods. "A gun violence tax will give us revenue to provide broad-based benefits through research and prevention programs," said President Burgess upon the bill's passage.

The second bill would require mandatory reporting of lost or stolen firearms to the Seattle Police Department. Mandatory reporting requirements promote gun safety by enabling law enforcement to better track guns used in crimes, return lost guns to their rightful owners, and protect gun owners from being falsely implicated in crimes committed with stolen guns.

A package of materials related to the final gun safety measures is available below and includes the following:

  • Frequently Asked Questions about the gun violence tax
  • Frequently Asked Questions about mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns
  • A timeline of recent gun safety actions in Seattle

Download all gun safety materials


The full text of both final, passed pieces of legislation is available below:

  • Gun violence tax legislation
  • Mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns legislation

Read the gun violence tax legislation

Read the mandatory reporting legislation

Gun Violence Tax

"Taxpayers in Seattle pay for millions of dollars in emergency medical care every year for people who have been shot," said Council President Burgess. "It's time for the gun industry to chip in to help defray these costs."

Grandmothers Against Gun Violence and Tim Burgess Marching in Favor of the Gun Safety Legislation
Grandmothers Against Gun Violence and Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Sally Bagshaw Marching in Favor of the Gun Safety Legislation

Under the gun violence tax, firearms dealers would pay $25 for every firearm sold and $0.05 for every round of ammunition sold. The City Budget Office estimates the gun violence tax will raise between $300,000 and $500,000 a year.

"Gun violence is a public health epidemic, but we can alleviate it with focused research and prevention funded by this new revenue source. Basic research can save lives," added Burgess.

In 2013, Seattle became the first city in the nation to conduct basic research on gun safety. The City Council-funded research led to a report from The Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center that established that "gun violence begets gun violence." The research found that individuals hospitalized for a firearm injury were 30 times more likely to be re-hospitalized for another firearm injury than people admitted to the hospital for non-injury reasons.

As a result, Harborview's research and medical staff developed a hospital-based intervention program for gun violence victims designed to reduce future hospitalizations from gun violence. Research and programmatic efforts like what the Harborview staff has proposed would be eligible for funding from the gun violence tax.


Direct medical costs from gunshot wounds in 2014


Taxpayers covered over 70% of these costs


"I want to thank Councilmember Burgess for his leadership. We know the people of Seattle demand action on this issue, not more talk," said Mayor Ed Murray. "Last year at the ballot box, voters approved greater accountability in background checks for gun sales. This proposal builds on that momentum by funding more tools to reduce the devastating impacts that guns have on our community."

Grandmothers Against Gun Violence and Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Sally Bagshaw in front of Seattle City HallGrandmothers Against Gun Violence and Councilmembers Tim Burgess and Sally Bagshaw in front of Seattle City Hall

"A tax on guns and ammunition makes sense, since the public pays the majority of the costs for gun violence in the form of medical costs for gunshot victims and of course the police and criminal justice costs of protecting citizens from gun violence," said Dr. Fred Rivara, core faculty member of Harborview's Injury Prevention and Research Center. "Using revenue from such a tax to help gun violence victims and prevent future gun violence is smart. The City Council should be lauded for their leadership in addressing this problem in our community."

"Gun violence is both a public safety and a public health issue. I fully support funding effective intervention programs to reduce gun violence. The Harborview research into repeat offenders and victims uses both public health and public safety lenses to address the needs of people who are most at-risk from gun violence," said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole.

Washington State levies other taxes that similarly mitigate public health impacts, like current taxes on the sale of cigarettes, alcohol, and wood-burning stoves.

Mandatory Reporting of Lost and Stolen Guns

Seattle police officers have taken into their evidence lockers 2,657 firearms since January 2012. Guns play a significant role in many crimes against persons in Seattle: 69% of homicides, 17% of robbery incidents and 8% of aggravated assaults between January 2012 and May 2015.

"Illegal guns cause serious harm in our neighborhoods," said Council President Burgess. "This simple requirement will help law enforcement trace guns used in crimes and solve more cases. It is a straightforward and important step for gun safety."

A January 2011 national poll found that 94% of the respondents favored such a requirement, with similar levels of support among gun-owning households. Another nationwide poll in May 2012 likewise found strong, two-thirds support from gun owners for this proposal.


Americans supporting a reporting requirement


Gun owners supporting a reporting requirement


Under the legislation that passed, individuals would have to report a lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours of discovery. Those found in violation of this requirement would face a civil penalty of up to $500.

Federal law currently requires firearms businesses with a federal license to report lost or stolen guns, but the law does not extend to individual gun owners.

"Governments tax cars and gasoline to build and maintain safe roads; it only makes sense to tax the source of gun violence-guns and ammunition-to address their impact on public health and safety," City Attorney Pete Holmes said. "The tax measure and the mandatory reporting requirement are strong steps toward a safer city. I look forward to helping to implement these ordinances and defending them as needed."


Council Meeting Videos


Education and Governance Committee 07/15/2015

Education and Governance Committee 08/05/2015


Full Council 08/10/2015


Gun Safety in the Media

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The Seattle City Council establishes City policy through enactment of ordinances (laws) and adoption of resolutions. The City Council also approves and adopts the City's budget. The nine Council members and their legislative assistants are part of the City of Seattle Legislative Department.