Cook County Reinstitutes Gun And Ammo Tax

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.”

They continued:

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”.

Actions On Taxes Have Consequences

I’ve written a couple of times about the Cook County “violence tax”. On Friday, the Cook County Board’s Finance Committee in a special meeting approved this tax.

Taxes are an important consideration for any business.

Outdoor (and firearm) retailer Cabela’s opened a large store in Hoffman Estates, IL in 2007. This is in the western part of Cook County. Soon after, the Cook County Board raised property taxes. Retailers are assessed based upon their retail space. Though it has a second floor, this Cabela’s store has closed that section and crammed everything into the first floor of the store in an effort to reduce their taxes.

In an article published yesterday in The American Thinker, Anthony Ciani speculates that the Hoffman Estates store may become the first Cabela’s to close down and this new firearms tax may be the reason.

When bullets only cost 3.5¢ to 20¢ apiece, a 5¢ tax is ridiculous, and $25 per gun is around 5% to 10% of the value of most guns. Preckwinkle dropped the bullet tax but the gun tax was just approved by the Finance Committee for a vote by the whole, along with a bunch of other tax increases. Primary season is long over with. The proposal is not an anti-gun tax, but retail vampirism disguised as sin taxes. The normal sales taxes in Cook County are already high, and the sales tax in the Village of Hoffman Estates is 9.5%. There is no reason for a person to pay a total tax of between 14.5% and 19.5% on a gun purchase in Cook County, when they can go 3 miles down the road to one of Illinois’ largest gun dealers, GAT Guns, in East Dundee, Kane County, where the sales tax is only 8.25%.

While Cabela’s has not indicated that they will close the store, Ciani says they have good reason to do it and offers some suggestions on how they can make it a win-win proposition for the company.

Read the whole article here.

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.

Cook County “Violence Tax” And Budget Public Hearings

Cook County (IL) Board President Toni Preckwinkle is going ahead with her proposed “violence tax” on arms and ammunition. It has been included in the proposed 2013 Executive Budget for Cook County. The tax officially called the Firearms and Firearm Ammunition Tax would levy a $25 fee per firearm on all new gun purchases as well as a 5 cent per round tax on all ammunition sales. The full text of the proposed Cook County Firearm and Firearm Ammunition Tax Ordinance can be found here.

The board will hold four public hearings on the 2013 Executive Budget over the next week beginning this evening. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has issued an action alert on these hearings and suggests that those who can attend one of these meetings make their voice heard. The hearing date and times are below. Note that if you want to testify you must sign up first.

Over the next week, there have been four public hearings scheduled
on the proposed 2013 Executive Budget. If possible please attend one
these hearings and testify in opposition to the tax. You must sign up first to testify.
Date Time Location
Thursday, Oct. 25 6:30 p.m. Second District Courthouse
5600 Old Orchard Road, Conf. Room 201
Skokie, IL
Friday, Oct. 26 9 a.m. Cook County Building
118 N. Clark St. Board Room, Rm. 569
Chicago, IL
Tuesday, Oct. 30 6:30 p.m. Sixth District Courthouse
16501 S. Kedzie Pkwy., Courtroom 098
Markham, IL
Thursday, Nov. 1 6:30 p.m. Fourth District Courthouse
1500 South Maybrook Dr., Courtroom 106
Maywood, IL

Even if you can’t attend one of these hearings, the NSSF suggests calling the members of the Cook County Board and expressing your displeasure over the “violence tax”. A list of board members and their phone numbers can be found here.

As Sebastian noted earlier this month, taxing a constitutional right for the purposes of discouraging it is unconstitutional. I’m sure the Second Amendment Foundation has no problems taking more money from the Chicago-area politicians in attorney’s fees. That said, I think everyone involved would just as soon see this stopped dead in its tracks at the county board level.