The Illinois Supreme Court struck down Cook County’s tax on firearms and ammunition as a violation of the Illinois Constitution’s uniformity clause with respect to taxation. The case, Guns Save Lives v. Ali, was decided on October 21st. The court noted that a special tax such as that on firearms and ammunition must be substantially “related to the object of the legislation.”
In applying that standard to the firearm and ammunition taxes, we recognize that the uniformity clause was “not designed as a straitjacket” for the County (Arangold, 204 Ill. 2d at 153) and acknowledge the costs that gun violence imposes on society. Nevertheless, the relationship between the tax classification and the use of the tax proceeds is not sufficiently tied to the stated objective of ameliorating those costs.
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. 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. Thus, we hold the tax ordinances are unconstitutional under the uniformity clause.
Since our holding disposes of this case, we need not address plaintiffs’ additional challenges to the ordinances.
The additional challenges included that this firearms and ammunition tax violated Article I, Section 22 of the Illinois Constitution which states, in part, “the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. However, Justice Michael Burke, in his concurring opinion recognized that this tax did violate Article 1, Section 22 and warned that it “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.”
He reiterated this in his conclusion disagreeing with the grounds upon which the majority of the court held the tax invalid.
Again, I believe that the majority’s analysis wrongly leaves the door open for a municipality to enact a future tax on firearms or ammunition that is more narrowly tailored to the purpose of ameliorating the cost of gun violence. The only problem with that approach is that it would still violate the Illinois Constitution.
Justice Burke knew Cook County and what they would do in response all too well.
On Thursday, November 4th, the Cook County Board of Commissioners reinstituted the “gun violence tax” with a 12-2 vote which amended the ordinance that was invalidated. Previously, the proceeds were sent to the Public Safety Fund. Now it will go to the “Special Purpose Equity Fund”.
The text of the amendment reads:
Effective November 4, 2021 revenue generated as the result of the collection and remittance of the firearm tax and the firearm ammunition tax set forth herein shall be directed to the Special Purpose Equity Fund to fund gun violence prevention programs as well as operations and programs aimed at reducing gun violence as determined by the Justice Advisory Council.
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle thinks the amendment will allow the ordinance to pass muster with the Illinois Supreme Court. After rattling off stats on “gun violence” (sic) which encouraged her to push for the reinstitution of the taxes, she said:
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.
What utter nonsense!
I am sure some of this money will be funneled to her favorite anti-gun organizations for “gun violence reduction programs” (sic). I imagine some will also go to Preckwinkle’s favorite academicians to produce more statistics showing “guns are bad”.
Perhaps if the money was aimed at cracking down on the Gangster Disciples, the Latin Kings, and the Four Corner Hustlers and their activities then it might do some good. However, in doing so, it would interfere with the unholy alliance between politicians and gangs in Chicago.
When famed Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society”, he could never have imagined modern-day Cook County and their “gun violence prevention tax”.