Much of Illinois isn’t as anti-gun as we tend to think. The Chicago area drives much of the state’s politics. That’s similar to how it works in a lot of states with massive metropolitan areas, unfortunately, but it’s particularly bad in Illinois. Yet those anti-gun areas drive a lot of bad policies, not just at the state level, but even at the local level, such as anti-gun taxes.
In Cook County, which is part of Chicago, lawmakers there decided to add a tax to all sales of guns and ammunition.
Now, it’s being challenged in court.
The Illinois Supreme Court this year will decide whether a Cook County tax on firearms and ammunition is unconstitutional on grounds taxes can’t be levied on items that allow people to exercise their “fundamental” rights.
The state’s high court last week heard arguments on a case where Cook County has twice been victorious in lower courts.
In 2012, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a $25 tax on firearms, followed a few years later by a per-cartridge tax on centerfire and rimfire ammunition.
The plaintiff in the case, “Guns Save Life”, a non-profit best known for erecting pro-gun signs on the side of highways, argues the intent of the tax was to make it more difficult for Illinoisans to purchase guns and violates their Second Amendment protections.
Prior to oral arguments, Guns Save Life’s plaintiff’s brief referenced various statements made by County Board members when the policy was first passed, to convince the court of bias against firearm purchases in the board’s legislative intent.
“At least we’re going to make it difficult for people to have guns,” County Board Commissioner Deborah Sims said in November 2012. “If you can’t afford it, you won’t buy it.”
Which is precisely what this is about.
The irony is that Sims likely considered herself a supporter of the “little guy,” the poor members of our society that seem to get victimized at every turn. However, she then votes for a regulation that directly impacts the poor.
See, the middle class can handle a $25 tax on guns. More than that, they can generally afford to travel outside of Cook County to buy guns and ammunition. They can skirt the tax easily enough.
Yet poor residents of the count are going to have a harder time avoiding these taxes, which will also account for a higher percentage of these residents’ wealth just to pay them.
Plus, there is the fact that it’s a tax explicitly on exercising a constitutionally protected right. Imagine a computer tax or a Bible tax…or a Koran tax. People like Sims would lose their ever-loving minds, and for legitimate reasons.
This isn’t all that different, really. They only think it’s different because they think the Second Amendment is icky.
If this is upheld, it’ll be the Illinois Supreme Court basically admitting what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has said for quite some time, that the Second Amendment is a second-class right. They’re acknowledging that while poll taxes are wrong, taxing the exercise of the Second Amendment is perfectly acceptable.
Well, it’s not, regardless of what they rule. We’ll just have to wait and see if the state shows any consistency on things like this.
I’m not holding my breath.