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Cook County’s gun, ammo tax subject of Illinois appeals court hearing

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(The Center Square) – Cook County’s tax on firearms and ammunition continues to be the subject of controversy as an Illinois appeals court takes the issue under consideration.

Last week, the First District Appellate Court of Illinois heard oral arguments in the lawsuit gun rights advocate Todd Vandermyde and others brought against Cook County. The $25 tax on firearms purchases and 1 to 5 cent tax per cartridge of ammunition has been in place since 2012, but was struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2021.

“[W]here a tax classification directly bears on a fundamental right, the government must establish that the tax classification is substantially related to the object of the legislation,” the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2021. “Under that level of scrutiny, the firearm and ammunition tax ordinances violate the uniformity clause.”

Weeks later, Cook County modified its ordinance for the taxation of firearms and ammunition.

“Per the amendment, the revenue generated from the amended firearm and ammunition tax will be directed to the Special Purpose Fund for Equity and Inclusion to directly fund the Justice Advisory Council’s gun violence prevention programs as well as operations and programs aimed at reducing gun violence,” a spokesman for Cook County said in 2021.

Representing the plaintiffs last week in Chicago, attorney Kate Hardiman said the issue is about how the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.”

“Infringe means not as the county argues to destroy but rather to hinder. So any tax hinders the exercise of her Second Amendment rights because it makes that right more expensive to exercise,” Hardiman said.

Representing Cook County, attorney Jessica Wasserman argued that plaintiffs haven’t made their case.

“Plaintiffs argue that the taxes must infringe on their ability to keep and bear arms simply because they couldn’t have purchased their desired weapons if they hadn’t paid the taxes,” Wasserman said. “But that’s also true for an ordinary sales tax and allowing a purchase price to be charged at all.”

Hardiman countered that during oral arguments last week.

“If this tax is OK, the right to counsel can be taxed, the right to any other constitutional right that this court favors can be taxed as well,” she said.

The appeals court took the issue under advisement.

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