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New Gun Tax for Cook County, Previous Gun Tax Ruled Unconstitutional

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Chicago Police iStock-625383406
Chicago has terrible gun violence, despite some of the strictest gun laws in the world. IMG iStock-625383406

U.S.A.-( On November 4, 2021, the Cook County (where Chicago is located), Illinois board amended a gun and ammunition tax which had been ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court on October 21, 2021.


Cook County commissioners voted Thursday to amend a guns and ammunition tax that was found unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court, aiming to give the measure another lifeline by designating that money for violence prevention.

In a 12-2 vote, with three commissioners absent, the county board approved the amendment, which states all revenue from the firearm and ammunition tax must go toward programs or operations geared toward gun violence prevention. The passage follows an Oct. 21 ruling from the state’s highest court that found the levy was unconstitutional.

Chicago Murders By Area, 2008 Chicago Tribune Data And Map
Chicago Murders By Area, IMG 2008 Chicago Tribune Data And Map

This fulfilled the prediction of Justice Michael J. Burke, in a special concurrence. From the Illinois Supreme Court ruling:

Justice Michael J. Burke, specially concurring:

Moreover, the reason why those statutes preempt handgun regulations, not handgun taxes, is obvious—the Illinois Constitution only allows the legislature to preempt regulations, not taxes. And taxes that infringe the right to keep and bear arms are already precluded by the Illinois Constitution. See Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 22; id. art. VII, § 6. Moreover, even if the statutes mentioned by the County did intend to specifically preserve for home rule units the power to tax handguns in the manner under consideration here, that would not show that the framers of our constitution intended to authorize a home-rule unit’s discriminatory taxation of firearms, where the text of that constitution clearly prohibits taxation that infringes on the right to keep and bear arms.

A new challenge to the amended tax seems likely. It is too early for a lawsuit to have been crafted and filed in court. A visit to the Guns Save website did not reveal any announcement of their response to the amended tax.

The Supreme Court decision on October 21 was unanimous with Chief Justice Anne M. Burke abstaining.  It is not known why the Chief Justice did not participate in the decision. Her husband Edward Burke is a power broker in Chicago politics, an Alderman of the 14th Ward.


There’s no evidence to suggest that Anne Burke, who is about to become the state’s highest-ranking judge, deliberately swung cases to benefit her husband’s clients. But one thing is indisputable: Some of the Supreme Court decisions Justice Burke helped shape spared some of her husband’s clients from significant financial and legal risk.

Chief Justice Burke avoided any appearance of impropriety in the gun tax case by not participating in it.

This correspondent predicts the words of Justice Michael J. Burke will appear in the next lawsuit challenging the gun and ammunition tax. From the decision:

Again, I believe that the majority’s analysis wrongly leaves the door open for a municipality to enact a future tax on firearms or ammunition that is more narrowly tailored to the purpose of ameliorating the cost of gun violence. The only problem with that approach is that it would still violate the Illinois Constitution.

Will Justice Burke continue to abstain in a new gun tax lawsuit? No one knows. No reason was given for her abstaining in the recently decided case.

The last lawsuit took nearly six years, from December 17, 2015, to October 21, 2021 to work its way to the Supreme Court, and for the Court to find the gun tax unconstitutional. The Cook County Board took two weeks to re-institute the amended tax. Will it take another six years for a new lawsuit to go to the Supreme Court again? Will the people of Illinois be continually subject to an Illinois legal game of whack a law?

The gun tax in Cook County is premised on a flawed assumption, The claim is: More guns equal more illegitimate violence. The evidence does not support this assumption. There is more evidence the number of guns does not make a difference in the level of violence, and the number of legal guns does not affect the number of illegal guns.

About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.


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