It Is Still Taxing A Fundamental Right

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has backed off of her idea to levy a 5 cents per cartridge “violence tax”. However, according to the Chicago Tribune, Preckwinkle still plans to go forward with her tax on firearms. This was part of a grand compromise with some Democrats on the County Board who were balking at the proposed Cook County Firearm and Firearm Ammunition Tax Ordinance.

The compromise was negotiated over several days with Commissioners John
Fritchey and Edwin Reyes, both Chicago Democrats, who had balked at the
guns and ammo taxes.

In exchange for their support,
Preckwinkle agreed to create a $2 million fund to combat gun violence.
Fritchey had proposed dedicating $1.4 million to anti-gun violence
efforts. She also agreed to exempt law-enforcement officers from having
to pay the tax, which helped convince Reyes to support the plan.

undetermined portion of the $2 million would be granted to “non-profits
with a track record of effective violence prevention and community
outreach.” About $100,000 would be used to crack down on illegal gun

The budget director for the county estimates that the tax on firearms will raise $600,000. If she is correct, this works out to 120,000 firearms purchases annually in Cook County. Using my iPhone’s FFL Finder app, I count approximately 35 licensed firearms dealers within Cook County. This works out to sales of over 3,400 firearms per shop over the course of a year. Frankly, I think the budget director is dreaming if she thinks there will be this many sales in the county in a year.

As Sebastian noted back when this first came up, there is significant Supreme Court precedent saying that taxing a fundamental right in order to discourage its use is unconstitutional. Given the legislative history of this ordinance and the public pronouncements of Ms. Preckwinkle, I don’t think attorneys such as Alan Gura or David Sigale would have to go far to find sufficient cause to get an injunction. If I were a taxpayer in Cook County, I’d be pretty upset to see my tax dollars going to fund the court case that passage of this tax will undoubtedly engender.

5 thoughts on “It Is Still Taxing A Fundamental Right”

  1. An undetermined portion of the $2 million would be granted to “non-profits with a track record of effective violence prevention and community outreach.”

    Ok, so that means that gun owners will be funding our own opposition? Do a portion of gangster rap CD sales go to the KKK? Is there an excise tax on tampons to fund the He Man Woman Hater's Club?

    1. I had similar thoughts about it. I wondered if the Joyce Foundation or States United was going to get a nice donation.

  2. I think you slipped up on your math; 600,000/(25*35)=686 (rounded). That seems reasonable. The main problem is that few of those gun stores are centrally located, most are within easy driving distance of the collar counties. That means it would be easy for many of their customers to go shopping outside of Cook.

    I don't think Preckwinckle is going to get even the miniscule revenue boost she expects.

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