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Illinois: Cook County Commission Approved a Punitive Tax on your Second Amendment Rights

Friday, November 9, 2012

Today, the Cook County Board of Commissioners held a Special Board Meeting and approved the misguided and onerous tax on firearms purchased in Cook County (previously reported on here).   This procedural move put the vote a week earlier than scheduled, as it was supposed to take place next week on November 16.  The original proposal was amended to remove the ammunition sales tax, but the ill-advised $25 firearm tax remains as part of the final 2013 budget.   Your county commissioners failed to stand up for your constitutional rights, ignored your voice, and once again placed the blame and burden of crime on law-abiding citizens.  With their vote today, the Cook County Commissioners have decided to continue a failed policy of passing illegitimate and ineffective ordinances in order to unfairly burden honest citizens and drive lawful businesses out of Cook County.

This adopted budget continues to penalize law-abiding gun owners for exercising their fundamental right to keep and bear arms.  By definition, holders of a valid FOID card are the only persons legally permitted to purchase a firearm in Illinois, and therefore would be the only ones subject to this tax – not the criminals responsible for the violence on the streets of Chicago.  Studies by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics have shown that less than one percent of prison inmates who were behind bars for a firearm-related crime, obtained their firearms from gun shops.  The vast majority of criminals obtain guns through theft or black market transactions – transactions that will obviously remain unaffected by this erroneous tax.

As gun ownership and legal carrying of firearms elsewhere have risen to all-time highs, the nation’s murder rate has fallen to nearly an all-time low, and both the nation’s murder rate and its total violent crime have fallen by half in the last twenty years.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, Cook County politicians continue to blame law-abiding gun owners and lawfully licensed dealers for their failure to respond appropriately to the problems plaguing their community.

As Chicago-area jurisdictions have learned to their financial detriment in the past, the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental, and any revenue raised by this additional burden on citizens exercising that right is likely to be consumed by costly litigation and attorney fees as this tax will join the roster of restrictive and unconstitutional gun laws struck down by the courts.  Federal and Illinois courts have consistently held that discriminatory taxes on the exercise of fundamental rights are unconstitutional.  For example, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a tax on the cost of paper and ink used to produce publications because “[a] power to tax differentially, as opposed to a power to tax generally, gives a government a powerful weapon against the taxpayer selected.” Minneapolis Star and Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Com’r of Revenue, 460 U.S. 575 (1983).  Likewise, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a surcharge on marriage license fees to fund domestic violence programs because people “forced by the tax imposed to alter their marriage plans” would suffer “a serious intrusion into their freedom of choice in an area in which [the court had] held such freedom to be fundamental.” Boynton v. Kusper, 494 N.E.2d 135 (Ill. 1986).

With their vote today, the Cook County Commissioners have ignored and rejected the voices of the honest citizen and taxpayer.  Instead of respecting your rights and the law of the land, they voted for an ideology with a history of failed policies.  Instead of looking for real solutions to crime in Cook County, the commissioners have grossly missed the mark.  They have shamelessly used crime to further their extremist anti-gun agenda which unfairly burdens honest citizens who exercise their Second Amendment rights.  Lawful businesses that sell firearms, including some big-box retailers, will be forced to consider moving outside of Cook County to avoid this discriminatory tax.

Your NRA-ILA will continue to monitor this issue and others, and work with the Illinois General Assembly and local government to work to protect and preserve your Second Amendment rights. 

A full list of the Cook County Commissioners can be found by clicking here.  

The following Commissioners voted against including this tax in the 2013 budget during last week’s Finance Committee meeting (reported on here):

Commissioner William Beavers

Commissioner Earlean Collins

Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman

Commissioner Gregg Goslin

Commissioner Timothy Schneider

Commissioner Peter Silvestri

Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski

The following Commissioners voted to tax your fundamental constitutional Right to Keep and Bear Arms:

Commissioner Jerry Butler

Commissioner John Fritchey

Commissioner Bridget Gainer

Commissioner Jesus Garcia

Commissioner Edwin Reyes

Commissioner Deborah Sims

Commissioner Robert Steele

Commissioner Larry Suffredin

Commissioner John Daley

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.