Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Gun Tax

Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Gun Tax

Cook County, Illinois – home to the notoriously anti-gun city of Chicago – has had a $25 fee for retail gun purchases in the county, as well as a 5 cent fee per cartridge of centerfire ammunition and 1 cent per cartridge fee for rimfire ammunition on the books since April 2013.

While unfortunate at the very least, the fee has been tolerated since its introduction. However, it has become even more financially burdensome over just the last couple of years. With demand for guns and ammo at an all-time high and supply at a never-before-seen low, prices have gone through the roof. This means that already-high ammo prices have gotten even higher, with 1,000 rounds of 9mm now costing an extra $50 just because of the tax.

That all changed in late-October 2021. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional. According to the court’s decision, “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.

This ruling reversed an appellate court ruling that would have allowed the taxes to stay in place.

Be Cautiously Optimistic

True, it’s good news that the court struck down the law, but their reasoning for doing so wasn’t purely constitutional in nature. The decision noted that Cook County’s failure to earmark the revenue from the tax for gun violence prevention programs was a big factor in their decision. In other words, had the money gone toward those programs, they might have left the appellate court’s ruling in place.

Shall Not Be Infringed

On the plus side, the ruling cited Article 1, Section 22 of the Illinois state constitution, which reads: “Subject only to the police power, the right of the individual citizen to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

By doing so, the court noted that even if the tax revenue had been set aside for gun violence prevention programs, it would still face hurdles because it “would still violate the provision of the Illinois Constitution noted above that plainly states that the right of the individual to keep and bear arms is subject only to the police power, not the power to tax.

What Good Has It Done?

Even if the money had gone to an anti-gun purpose, would it really have had any impact in an already heavily anti-gun county? In 2020, the tax brought in more than $1.9 million in revenue. And yet, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that there were 875 gun-related homicides in 2020, breaking the previous record of 838 set in 1994. This was a 33% increase between 2019 and 2020. Unsurprisingly, a whopping 77% of these homicides occurred in the city of Chicago, which takes Cook County’s anti-gun extremism even further.

That amount of money breaks down to more than $2,100 per gun-related homicide in the county. What, if anything, could have been done in terms of prevention had that money been “properly earmarked” is anyone’s guess.

Where Do We Go From Here?

For now, FFLs in Cook County, Illinois, can rejoice in the fact that, for the first time since 2013, they can be more competitive in their offerings. The removal of all the taxes means that the prices incurred by customers will fall while not reducing the amount of profit earned by the business.

In the broad scheme of things, it means that business is going to be better for these FFLs than it has been in a long time.

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