Illinois Supreme Court tosses county tax on guns, ammunition

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Semi-automatic handguns are displayed at shop in New Castle, Pa. The number of people stopped from buying guns though the U.S. background check system hit an all-time high of more than 300,000 last year amid a surge of firearm sales, according to new records obtained by the group Everytown for Gun Safety. The FBI numbers provided to The Associated Press show the background checks blocked nearly twice as many gun sales in 2020 as in the year before. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Cook County taxes on guns and ammunition violate the state constitution because they “directly burden a law-abiding citizen’s” second amendment right to buy the items for self-defense.

Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote in a 6-0 decision that the taxes violate the constitution’s uniformity clause. She noted revenue from the tax isn’t directed toward funds or programs to curb the costs of gun violence or reduce the violence.

Illinois’ largest county approved the $25 tax on the retail purchase of a firearm within the county in 2012. In 2015, Cook County approved a tax ranging from 1 cent to 5 cents per cartridge of ammunition. Any person who doesn’t pay the tax faces fines starting at $1,000.

A gun rights organization, Guns Save Life, sued, saying the tax violated the second amendment.

The county argued that the harmful effects of guns and ammunition cost the county “immeasurably.” They said that in 2017 the county’s hospitals system treated over 1,100 patients with gunshot wounds, spending $30,000 to $50,000 on each patient.

A spokesman for Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said Thursday they are disappointed in the ruling and will work to determine next steps.

“It is no secret that gun violence continues to be an epidemic in our region,” Nick Mathiowdis said. “We continue to maintain that the cost of a bullet should reflect, even if just a little bit, the cost of the violence that ultimately is not possible without the bullet.”

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