Illinois Supreme Court Rules Unconstitutional Tax on Guns and Ammo

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
October 23, 2021Chicago
Illinois Supreme Court Rules Unconstitutional Tax on Guns and Ammo
Pistols are offered for sale at Freddie Bear Sports in Tinley Park, Illinois, on Oct. 18, 2012. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 21 that two taxes on guns and ammunition in Cook County violate the state’s constitution because they affect law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment right to acquire firearms for self-defense.

Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote in a 6–0 decision that the taxes violate the Constitution’s uniformity clause, while also pointing out that the revenue from the generated tax isn’t directed toward funds or programs that reduce gun violence.

“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,” Theis wrote in a 14-page opinion (pdf) filed on Thursday.

“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,” she noted. “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.”

The justice concluded that the case will be remanded to the circuit court “for entry of summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs.”

In 2012, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved a $25 tax on the retail purchase of a firearm within the county. The county’s Firearm Tax Ordinance was enacted in April 2013.

A separate county tax was enacted in 2015, which added $0.05 per cartridge for centerfire ammunition and $0.01 per cartridge for rimfire ammunition. Americans who fail to pay those taxes are subject to a $1000 fine for the first offense and a $2000 fine for subsequent offenses.

The trade group and gun-rights organization, Guns Save Life, challenged both taxes in a lawsuit against the county, saying they violate the second amendment of law-abiding citizens.

A spokesman for Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said on Thursday they are disappointed in the ruling and will work to determine the next steps.

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