Illinois Supreme Court Rules that Cook County’s Guns and Ammo Tax is Unconstitutional

Every now and then, America’s court system can produce victories for gun owners. A few weeks ago, the Illinois Supreme Court declared that Cook County’s taxes on guns and ammunition are unconstitutional.

As Dean Weingarten of AmmoLand observed, this entire episode commenced on November 8, 2012 when “Cook County Illinois created a special tax on guns.” On November 18, 2015, the County board slapped on an additional tax on ammunition.

These actions prompted the pro-Second Amendment group Guns Save Lives to file a lawsuit challenging the tax law, on December 17, 2015.

At first, the lower courts in Illinois were not in agreement with Guns Saves Lives’ argument. They did not believe that the taxes were unconstitutional. This compelled Guns Save Lives to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. Eventually the case was decided on October 21, 2021. On a unanimous ruling, 6-0, the judges ruled the taxes as unconstitutional. However, there was one caveat with this ruling that Weingarten picked up on:

”The judges ruled the taxes to be unconstitutional, but the majority decision was a narrow ruling based on tax law instead of the Second Amendment or the Illinois State Constitution.” broke down overall details of this case:

The Cook County gun tax, which took effect in April 2013, imposed 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.

The taxes were challenged by the trade group Guns Save Life Inc. in a lawsuit against the county.
The Supreme Court’s Thursday opinion, written by Justice Mary Jane Theis, stated that, “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

According to the majority opinion, the powers to tax and regulate are separate powers. The Supreme Court ruled that, under Illinois Law, taxation does not constitute regulation. In essence, as Weingarten explained, “Thus, the strong pre-emption statute passed in Illinois as part of the weapons law reforms required by the Seventh Circuit, did not apply to taxes.” In addition, the Court determined that the tax did not comply with the requirements stipulated by the Illinois tax code, and was unconstitutional due to how it affected a constitutional freedom.

Ultimately, the ruling brought about by the Illinois Supreme Court focused on the taxation aspect of this lawsuit, not so much how such action constituted a clear violation of the Second Amendment.

But if you’re an Illinois gun owner, you’ll take whatever you can get. Illinois is one of the most anti-Second Amendment states in the union. According to Guns & Ammo magazine, it’s ranked in 41st place for the best states for gun owners.

As a result, there aren’t many options for gun owners in the state to impact change in terms of gun policy. The best Illinois residents can hope for is either the state or federal courts to intervene or using soft secession to nullify unconstitutional gun control laws at the state or federal level.

The Illinois protection for the right to arms is not very strong. In the case of taxes, it appears to be strong enough.

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