Gun Owners Fight Cook County Gun Tax

CHICAGO (CN) – A gun group and a gun store sued Cook County, claiming its tax on guns and ammunition are unconstitutional.
     Guns Save Life and Maxon Shooter’s Supplies and Indoor Range say the $25 tax on firearms and pennies on each cartridge of ammunition violates the Second and 14th Amendments, the Illinois Constitution and the Firearm Owners Identification Act.
     Cook County adopted a firearms tax in 2012, and in November this year added a tax on ammunition.
     The Dec. 17 lawsuit in Chancery Court states: “In the latest stages of its long-running campaign against the rights of its law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, the Cook County Board of Commissioners has enacted a discriminatory tax ordinance that directly and exclusively targets the exercise of the fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”
     “They’ve done just about all they can to make it difficult for gun owners,” said John Boch, executive director of Guns Save Life.
     Boch says his group “aggressively defends the rights of law-abiding citizens” and is “looking for judicial remedies.”
     He says his group has grown in five years from one monthly meeting to six and its membership has risen by 400 percent. He compares a tax on firearms to a tax on going to church, reading the newspaper, voting or any other protected activity.
     “Purchasers of firearms and of firearm ammunition in Cook County are forced to pay a tax solely because they are exercising their fundamental constitutional rights,” according to the complaint.
     The third plaintiff, Marilyn Smolenski, says she “carries a firearm for self-defense” after a stalking incident involving her ex-husband. She says in the lawsuit that she declined to buy a new handgun from Maxon’s retail shop due to the extra tax.
     Though the tax was meant to deter gun violence in Cook County, the burden “falls disproportionately on law-abiding gun owners,” according to the complaint.
     In Illinois a Firearm Owner Identification Card is required and, the lawsuit says, “felons, drug addicts, the mentally ill, undocumented immigrants, and domestic abusers are barred from receiving a FOID card.”
     Boch cites Florida as an example of how to deter violent crime. He says crime rates there are the lowest in the state’s history now that harsher sentences and longer jail times are being imposed.
     Firearm businesses in Cook County, like Maxon, are hurt by the tax, the lawsuit says. Maxon has to spend money complying with reports and regulations and “pays Cook County thousands of dollars a month in firearm tax.”
     In addition, the lawsuit says, the tax “puts all retail dealers in Cook County at a competitive disadvantage in relation to retailers outside of Cook County,” and sends gun owners outside the county to shop.
     “Firearms retailers in surrounding counties attempt to attract business by advertising the fact that they are not subject to the tax,” the complaint states.
     Boch says that businesses “are not one bit happy about the tax.”
     The plaintiffs want the tax enjoined as unconstitutional. They are represented by Stone & Johnson in Chicago and Cooper & Kirk in Washington, D.C.
     Frank Shuftan, spokesman for the Office of the President of Cook County, said he did not know whether the county had been served yet, and that Cook County does not usually comment on pending litigation.
     One person in Chicago had been shot every 2.8 hours this year through Oct. 6, according to the Chicago Tribune, which track gun violence there. The 2,349 woundings and killings this year were on track to exceed the 2,587 woundings and killings in 2014, or one every 3.4 hours, according to the Tribune.

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