Chicago Gun Tax
Gun Laws, Gun Politics

Chicago Gun Tax


Cook County just introduced its own gun tax. Despite a lawsuit initiated by firearm stores and owners, it’s already in effect.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who proposed the tax, stated he was looking for a way to reduce the expenses that gun violence inflicts on county taxpayers – both in the public health care system and local criminal justice system.

The tax was approved by county commissioners as a part of the larger 2013 budget for the Cook County. Every gun sale in this suburban county will now come with $25 surcharge due to this tax.

It is debatable how effective the tax will be. Considering that the county itself has a $3 billion operating budget, the sum of $600,000 that the tax is expected to rake in this year seems more symbolic than anything else.

A month ago, a group of Chicago area based firearm owners and dealers filed a suit on the tax, with the reasoning that it violates their constitutional rights as enshrined in the 2nd amendment. So far no action has been taken on their behalf.

The argument for the lawsuit is as follows: “Proponents of the tax have admitted that its purpose is to curb the number of firearms in circulation. The Tax thus is intended to deter individuals from exercising their fundamental right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second and the Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and . . . the Illinois Constitution”.

In defense of the tax, Preckwinke and her staff have cited a study showing that nearly 30 percent of guns found at crime scenes in Chicago were sold legally at suburban Cool County shops.

Not all Cook county commissioners are optimistic about the outcome. Commissioner Edwin Reyes is concerned that the county may spend a lot of time and money fighting the lawsuit. He states “I supported this because it was a compromise to get rid of the bullet tax,” referring to the nickel-a-bullet tax Preckwinkle proposed earlier but eventually holstered. Main complaint was that the tax on a box of bullets would cost more than the bullets themselves.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin does not share those concerns, as an attorney, he believes that the county is on solid legal ground. He insists that because the state’s attorney is already on retainer to the county board, the lawsuit wouldn’t cost any additional taxpayer dollars.

“I think we will win this lawsuit quickly and it [the tax] will be in place for a long time,” he explained.

A spokeswoman for Preckwinkle, Kristen Mack, said: “When we proposed this tax in the fall, we expected it to be contentious. President Preckwinkle maintains she won’t make decisions on the basis of whether or not somebody is going to sue the county, otherwise we’d never make bold proposals.”

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April 16, 2013
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