By Sandy Fitzgerald
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that Cook County’s two taxes on guns and ammunition are in violation of the state’s Constitution, writing in 6-0 decision that the taxes affect citizens’ Second Amendment rights to possess firearms for self-defense.
“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,” Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote in the 14-page opinion, reports NTD.
Theis also wrote that the taxes are in violation of the uniformity clause of the state Constitution and noted that the revenue that’s collected wasn’t being directed toward programs or funding that reduces gun violence, and nothing in the ordinance “indicates that the proceeds generated from the ammunition tax must be specifically directed to initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence,” according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
She concluded that the case will be sent back to the circuit court “for entry of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.”
The challenge was filed by the non-profit Guns Save Life Inc. against Cook County, its Sheriff Tom Dart, and the county’s director of the department of revenue, and reverses, in part, decisions from Cook County Circuit and state appellate courts upholding the taxes.
The case was ordered to be sent back to the circuit court level for a summary judgment in favor of Guns Save Life.
Meanwhile, Chief Justice Anne Burke did not participate in the decision of the case, reports the Sun-Times. In a separate opinion, Justice Michael Burke said he agreed with his fellow justices, for the most part, but still said he’s concerned that the opinion “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.”
The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved the $25 tax on retail purchases of firearms in the county, enacting the ordinance in April 2013.
In 2015, the county enacted a separate tax that added five cents per cartridge for centerfire ammunition and for one cent a cartridge for purchases of rimfire ammunition and ordered that people who fail to pay the taxes could be subjected to a $1,000 fine for the first offense and $2,000 for further charges.
A spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the county is “disappointed” in the ruling and intends to meet with legal counsel to determine the county’s next steps.
“It is no secret that gun violence continues to be an epidemic in our region,” the spokesman’s statement said. “Addressing societal costs of gun violence in Cook County is substantial and an important governmental objective. 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. We are committed to protecting County residents from the plague of gun violence with or without this tax.”