Cook County enacted two taxes, one in 2012 on firearms, and one in 2015 on ammo. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that both Cook County laws were unconstitutional. The challenge was brought by Guns Save Life, a gun rights advocacy group.
Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote in a 6–0 decision that the taxes violate the constitution’s uniformity clause, while also pointing out that the revenue from the generated tax isn’t directed toward funds or programs that reduce gun violence.
“While the taxes do not directly burden a law-abiding citizen’s right to use a firearm for self-defense, they do directly burden a law-abiding citizen’s right to acquire a firearm and the necessary ammunition for self-defense,” Theis wrote in a 14-page opinion (pdf) filed on Thursday.
“Under the plain language of the ordinances, the revenue generated from the firearm tax is not directed to any fund or program specifically related to curbing the cost of gun violence,” she noted. “Additionally, nothing in the ordinance indicates that the proceeds generated from the ammunition tax must be specifically directed to initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence.”
The justice concluded that the case will be remanded to the circuit court “for entry of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.”
The way the Illinois Supreme Court ruled will be difficult for Cook County to simply re-direct the funds to a social program. The tax on firearms from 2012 was $25 per weapon, and the tax on ammunition from 2015 was .01 cent per cartridge for rimfire, and .05 cents for centerfire. Anyone who refused to pay the tax would have to pay a fine of $1,000 for first offense, and $2,000 for a second offense. But the judges were clear that the whole concept of the taxes violated the right to obtain firearms for self-defense.
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said he was disappointed in the ruling and they will be looking to see what the next steps will be. Count on it being something just as bad against legal gun owners. Likely they won’t even consider any legislation that targets criminals.
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- Small Arms Guns and Ammo Now Free of Sales Tax in West Virginia
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