Illinois Supreme Court strikes down Cook County tax on guns, ammo

Gun owners in Cook County, Illinois, chalked up a significant victory this week with a decision by the state’s highest court.

According to The Epoch Times, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a tax on gun purchases “directly burdens” the Second Amendment rights of those living in the state’s most populous county. 

“Not directed to any fund or program”

A $25 gun tax was approved in 2012 and a subsequent tax of between one and five cents per cartridge was added three years later. Failure to comply could result in a $1,000 fine.

Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, asserted that the taxes were justified by the “immeasurably” high costs associated with gun-related crime.

Revenues from those taxes, however, were reportedly not used to deter gun violence, prompting state Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis to conclude that they violated the uniformity clause of the state’s constitution.

As part of a unanimous decision on the matter, Theis wrote: “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.”

She cited the relevant ordinances in determining that “the revenue generated from the firearm tax is not directed to any fund or program specifically related to curbing the cost of gun violence.”

“Subject only to police power”

Of course, proponents of the tax were not pleased with the decision, as a Cook County Democratic Party explained in a statement.

“It is no secret that gun violence continues to be an epidemic in our region,” a spokesperson declared, according to ABC 7 Chicago. “We continue to maintain that the cost of a bullet should reflect, even if just a little bit, the cost of the violence that ultimately is not possible without the bullet.”

The court’s ruling did include some notable caveats, though, and did not rule out the possibility of targeted taxes on gun purchases in the future.

As Justice Michael Burke wrote, the decision “leaves space for a municipality to enact a future tax — singling out guns and ammunition sales — that is more narrowly tailored to the purpose of ameliorating gun violence,” asserting that the right to bear arms is “subject only to police power, not the power to tax.”

Illinois Democrats are likely to pursue new efforts to tax something they do not like — guns and ammunition — to pay for their social programs. Perhaps instead of penalizing law-abiding gun owners, Cook County prosecutors should start cracking down on those accused of violent crimes.

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