Illinois Supreme Court rules Cook County firearms and ammunition taxes unconstitutional

Two Cook County taxes on firearms and ammunition are at risk after the Illinois Supreme Court found they violated the state’s constitution.

In a 6-0 decision, Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote in a notice filed Thursday that the county’s firearms and ammunition tax orders violate the constitution’s uniformity clause, and taxes “Impose a burden on the exercise of a fundamental right protected by the Second Amendment.”

“Although taxes do not weigh directly on the right of a law-abiding citizen to use a firearm in self-defense, they weigh directly on the right of a law-abiding citizen to acquire a firearm. and ammunition necessary for self-defense, ”Theis wrote.

“In the plain language of the ordinances, the revenue generated by the gun tax is not directed to any fund or program specifically related to reducing the cost of gun violence,” she wrote.

Illinois Supreme Court Judge Mary Jane Theis in 2012.
Brian Jackson ~ Sun-Times file

“In addition, nothing in the ordinance indicates that the proceeds of the ammunition tax should be specifically intended for initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence. Thus, we consider that the tax orders are unconstitutional under the uniformity clause. “

This opinion, in the Guns Save Life Inc. case against Cook County, County Revenue Department Director, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, partially overturns the decisions of the Cook County Circuit and the Courts. state appeal that maintained the taxes. and returns the case to the circuit court for summary judgment in favor of the association.

Chief Justice Anne Burke had no part in deciding the case, according to the notice. In a separate opinion, Judge Michael Burke largely agreed with his colleagues, but expressed concern that the majority opinion “leaves room for a municipality to pass a future tax – targeting firearms and ammunition sales – which is more closely aligned with the goal of improving firearms. violence.”

Guns Save Life members did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It was not immediately clear what the ruling would mean for county taxes.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Cook County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle said the county was “disappointed” by the recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling.

“We intend to meet with our legal advisor and determine what next steps may be warranted,” the spokesperson said. “It’s no secret that gun violence continues to be an epidemic in our region. … Addressing the societal costs of gun violence in Cook County is an important and important government goal.

Cook County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle in 2019.

Cook County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle in 2019.
Colin Boyle / Sun-Times

“We continue to assert that the cost of a bullet should reflect, if only a little, the cost of violence which ultimately is not possible without the bullet. We are committed to protecting County residents from the scourge of gun violence with or without this tax. “

The spokesperson pointed to recent data from the Chicago Police Department which shows that the number of shootings in Chicago has increased by almost 10% from last year with nearly 2,900 shootings this year.

“The use of firearms has had a significant impact on public safety, health and general county expenses,” the spokesperson’s statement read in part.

The County Firearms Tax Ordinance, which was enacted in 2013, imposes a tax of $ 25 on the purchase of a firearm from a Cook County retailer.

The county then passed a separate ammunition tax – $ 0.05 per round for centerfire ammunition, typically used for rifles, shotguns, and handguns, and $ 0.01 per round for Rimfire ammunition, which is popular for small game hunting or sport shooting, according to the Target Barn auto defense and competition site.

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