State Senator Neil Anderson says a recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling to turn down a tax on firearms and ammunition in Cook County is a small win for law-abiding gun owners but raises the question on the legality of taxing a constitutional right.
“This was another maneuver by anti-gun groups to try and place more costly burdens on law-abiding gun owners,” said Senator Anderson. “Elected officials on the record, made it clear their goal was to make it harder for people to get guns by raising taxes so law-abiding gun owners couldn’t exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
In 2012 Cook County passed a firearm tax for all firearms sold by dealers in the county. A few years later the Board added an ammunition tax. There was a lawsuit challenging the taxes but the circuit and appellate courts upheld the taxes and petitioners sought review from the Illinois Supreme Court.
“Instead of trying to force guns out of the hands of good-guys, these groups should focus on what can be done to curb crime and keep firearms out of the hands of repeat offenders.”
In a 6-0 decision, the court held that Cook County’s special tax on firearms and ammunition violated the Uniformity Clause of the Illinois Constitution because the revenue generated from the firearm and ammunition taxes were not directed to any fund or program specifically addressing or related to violence prevention.
“It is unconstitutional to tax a fundamental right. Taxing people to purchase firearms and ammunition is a mere violation of our Second Amendment right. It’s like taxing voters for exercising their Fourteenth Amendment right by showing up to the polls to vote. It makes no sense and is another cash grab by the Majority party.”
Justice Theis’ opinion did not address the plaintiffs’ additional second amendment challenges to Cook County’s ordinances leaving open the question of whether Cook County could pass a new ordinance specifically earmarking the revenue for reducing gun violence.
Justice Michael Burke wrote that he believed that there was a more significant issue with the Cook County’s tax scheme that the majority failed to address. Although the government can regulate the right to keep and bear arms within reason through its inherent police power, it does not have the authority to single out the exercise of that right for taxation.