WEAPONS SAVE LIVES WIN! Cook County Gun and Ammunition Tax Unanimously Unconstitutional by Illinois Supreme Court

Illinois Supreme Court (Shutterstock)

The Illinois Supreme Court downgraded Cook County’s gun and ammunition tax as unconstitutional in a ruling released yesterday. In the case of Guns Save Life v. Ali, the state Supreme Court ruled that the tax on an unpopular fundamental right improperly violated the unity clause of the Illinois Constitution.

The Cook County Board introduced a US $ 25 gun tax per gun purchase in 2013 to encourage legal gun owners to pay for gun crimes committed by gang members and other violent criminals, primarily in Chicago. Later, the Cook County Board’s galaxy-brains introduced another tax on a fundamental right they dislike, with an ammunition tax of 5 cents per round (one penny per round for rimfire ammunition).

Here in the real world, these taxes did two things. First, the onerous taxes made business difficult for legitimate retailers selling firearms and ammunition in Cook County. In the same vein, some companies outside of the county have reported that they do not impose a “Cook County tax” on the purchase of firearms and ammunition in their stores, attracting the business of Cook County residents.

The second thing the tax did was get Guns Save Life, an aggressive grassroots gun rights organization, to file lawsuits against the unconstitutional taxes. With the assistance of the legal team of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, Guns Save Life became the organizational plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Chris Conte, Special Counsel of the NRA-ILA, designed the challenge for us. Conte’s brilliant legal mind has proven invaluable in countless behind-the-scenes court cases aimed at overturning unconstitutional gun control laws. In fact, Illinois has finally joined the other 49 states with covert carry laws thanks to a successful legal challenge Conte contributed to many years ago.

Unfortunately, Conte recently passed away and was unable to see that the successful outcome of another of his lawsuits would benefit American gun owners.

In a 6-0 decision, the Illinois Supreme Court overruled the county and appeals courts, ruling the special tax on a basic civil right unconstitutional. In particular, the law violates the uniformity clause of the state constitution.

I was one of the individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit and was asked if Cook County will challenge the decision in the US Supreme Court. At the moment, I think this is highly unlikely for one important reason: the US Supreme Court only accepts a tiny percentage of the cases submitted to it for review. One consequence of this could be that if Cook County appealed, the US Supreme Court ruling against them could effectively result in a national gun and ammunition surcharge ban.

The Patch has mainstream media opinion on Guns Save Life’s victory.

One of the judges gave a unanimous disagreement, while presiding judge Anne Burke did not participate in the examination or decision of the case.

“According to the plain text of the ordinances, the income from the firearms tax does not flow into a fund or a program that is specifically aimed at containing the costs of gun violence,” stated the majority. “In addition, nothing in the ordinance indicates that the revenue from the ammunition tax must be channeled into initiatives to reduce armed violence. We therefore consider the tax ordinances to be unconstitutional within the meaning of the uniformity clause. “

The uniformity clause in Article IX of the State Constitution requires that tax classes must be appropriate and that subjects and objects within each class are taxed uniformly.

Not only will the decision directly benefit Cook County residents and visitors who purchase guns and ammunition in the county, but more importantly, Lincoln residents as well. It effectively thwarts legislative proposals to expand Cook County’s surcharge nationwide or impose it on the purchase of police rifles along with other popular semi-automatic firearms and the magazines that feed them.

John Boch is the managing director of Guns Save Life.

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