Judge Rules Against Challenge to Cook County Gun, Ammunition Taxes

Maxon Shooters Supply Cook County Ammunition Tax Ruling

Cook County, Illinois has had a $25 per firearm tax on gun sales since 2013. In 21016, they imposed a tax on ammunition sales, too. Because guns.

As our John Boch was quoted at the time,

“The gun tax is nothing more than a modern day poll tax against the poor,” John Boch, executive director of the pro-gun Guns Save Life group told Illinois Business Daily in an email. “Gun control is racist, classist and sexist–we don’t support those things.”

A collection of gun dealers backed by the National Rifle Association and Guns Save Life sued to invalidate the taxes. But late last week, a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled against the plaintiffs. Here’s the announcement from Maxon Shooter’s Supply.

Cook County Firearm and Ammo Tax Update

Short version: we lost at the trial court level. This is not an unexpected decision, though it is disappointing. Five years after we filed this lawsuit, and eight months after arguments ended, Judge David B. Atkins has issued a very thin three and a half page ruling. There is very little in it addressing the substance of the arguments – only conclusions. Our arguments are:

  • This is effectively an illegal poll tax
  • It is an undue burden on Cook County Retailers and lawful customers
  • It is a regulation in violation of state preemption (IL state has preemption on any firearm laws)

In 2013, the Cook County Board passed a $25 per firearm tax for all firearms sold by dealers in the county.  Then in 2016, the Board added an ammunition tax of $0.05 per round for centerfire and $0.01 per round for rimfire ammo.

Maxon Shooters is the sole remaining gun shop plaintiff in this lawsuit, and we will be part of the appeal; other plaintiffs are Maxon customer Marilyn Smolenski (who is running for the ILGA in November) and GSL. The Appellate Court is a much faster track than the trial court typically. We remain optimistic that we will win at the Appellate or Supreme Court level. Thank you for your continued support and interest in this matter.

Stay tuned.

comments

  1. avatar 2aguy says:

    All of these taxes and fees need to be challenged as violations of the 14th Amendment, and the previous supreme court ruling in Murdock v Pennsylvania which stated you cannot tax the exercise of a Right.

    1. avatar anarchyst says:

      The U S government already taxes a “right”…the 1934 “National Firearms Act” imposes a $200.00 “tax” on “certain” firearms.
      Maybe that is why the courts did not want to take the Cook County “tax” on firearms.
      Imagine that getting all the way to the “supreme court”.
      The NFA would have to be invalidated and ruled unconstitutional.

      1. avatar arc says:

        Governments don’t have rights, only powers appointed to them by the people, or power they have stolen from the people. The NFA was a power grab and unlawful in accordance with the supreme law of the land, the US constitution.

        The NFA can git fuqd.

      2. avatar foobar says:

        Please… don’t toy with my emotions like that…

      3. avatar Scott says:

        The thought of tax stamps getting repealed would keep me erect far longer than the 4 hour limit.

    2. avatar Binder says:

      “A tax of 10 percent of the sales price is imposed on pistols and revolvers, and a tax of 11 percent of the sales price is imposed on other portable weapons (e.g., rifles and shotguns) and ammunition.”

      That is Federal Code from 1937, get started on that one first.

      1. avatar Jordan Bowles says:

        The Pittman Roberson taxes are less ripe for the picking, as they apply to more than just guns and ammunition, bows fishing rods and other hunting and fishing equipment are also subject to that excise tax. Legally it’s are not much different than a sales tax, where a general tax on things that happen to include books and newspapers is ok, but a tax specifically targeting say ink and newsprint is not ok.

        1. avatar TommyG says:

          Pitman Roberson taxes are the way Hunting programs get funded in this country. i.e. the money people pay in those taxes actually makes its way back to a lot of the people paying them.
          This Cook county thing is obviously a different deal.

        2. avatar Binder says:

          How is my carry gun hunting equipment? So you would be OK with Cook Count if they included the firearms tax with say cigarettes? That way the it would be in a pool of items, so technically legal? How about we use the cook count tax money for schools? Then are we good? Also please don’t fall for the lie that a tax is for funding something. It just to free up money from the general fund.

      2. avatar Arc says:

        Buy outside of the county or under the table.

        1. avatar Binder says:

          Every FFL that is not a gun shop is now outside of Cook. As for buying under the table, are you nuts. These are FFL transactions, why in the would would any FFL risk not paying the tax?

      3. avatar Geoff says:

        That tax is imposed on the manufacturer and is just passed on to the end user in the selling price.
        https://www.mdwfp.com/conservation/who-pays-for-it/pittman-robertson-act.aspx

    3. avatar VerendusAudeo says:

      The 2nd Amendment doesn’t really fit in with the others for the simple reason that you essentially have to purchase something to exercise it. Firearms are goods just like any other, which can be subjected to targeted taxes such as ‘vice taxes’ as well as market forces. Can you really argue that a sales tax infringes on your right to keep and bear arms? Can I sue my LGS for charging higher than MSRP for a near mythological Kel-Tec product?

      1. avatar Rincoln says:

        Private enterprise and unlawful, federal overreach are two wholely separate things.

      2. avatar 2aguy says:

        Murdock v Pennsylvania addressed this. This needs to be taken to the Supreme Court after Kavanaugh is on the bench.

        Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105 (1943)

        Murdock v. Pennsylvania

        No. 480

        Argued March 10, 11, 1943

        Decided May 3, 1943*

        319 U.S. 105

        Syllabus

        1. A municipal ordinance which, as construed and applied, requires religious colporteurs to pay a license tax as a condition to the pursuit of their activities, is invalid under the Federal Constitution as a denial of freedom of speech, press and religion. Pp. 319 U. S. 108-110.

        2. The mere fact that the religious literature is “sold”, rather than “donated” does not transform the activities of the colporteur into a commercial enterprise. P. 319 U. S. 111.

        3. Upon the record in these cases, it cannot be said that “Jehovah’s Witnesses” were engaged in a commercial, rather than in a religious, venture. P. 319 U. S. 111.

        4. A State may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a right granted by the Federal Constitution. P. 319 U. S. 113.

        5. The flat license tax here involved restrains in advance the Constitutional liberties of press and religion, and inevitably tends to suppress their exercise. P. 319 U. S. 114.

        6. That the ordinance is “nondiscriminatory,” in that it applies also to peddlers of wares and merchandise, is immaterial. The liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment are in a preferred position. P. 319 U. S. 115.

        7. Since the privilege in question is guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, and exists independently of state authority, the inquiry as to whether the State has given something for which it can ask a return is irrelevant. P. 319 U. S. 115.

        8. A community may not suppress, or the State tax, the dissemination of views because they are unpopular, annoying, or distasteful. P. 319 U. S. 116.

    4. avatar MarkPA says:

      The real question we face is how to reason about taxes in relation to a right. The “poll tax” actually undermines our case. It suggests that the ONLY way to overturn a tax on a right is to pass a Constitutional amendment.

      We PotG have actually CONSENTED to taxes on guns, ammo (and archery) in the Pittman-Robinson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. What is – or ought to be – the principle that is the basis of our position? What distinguishes Pittman-Robinson vs. NFA taxes?

      I propose an answer based on the “Laffer Curve”.

      Consider 2 related and simple examples from the NFA: the $5 tax on an AOW; the $200 tax on a Silencer. Bear in mind that the real value of these taxes in 1934 might have been the equivalent of 5% on an AOW and 1000% on a Silencer. Arguably, the $5 AOW tax served to generate revenue to the Treasury; however, the $200 Silencer tax served only to utterly DESTROY the market for that product. That is, it was deliberately designed to be a tax so high that it would generate LESS revenue than a lower tax rate would have generated. The OBJECTIVE of the level of tax was to suppress exercise of the right.

      Can we reason about taxes – in general – using this framework? Can we ask whether it is clear – or not – that the $200 tax on machine guns suppressed the market? The $200 tax on Short-Barreled Shotguns? The $200 tax on Silencers? The 11% tax on guns and ammo?

      Change the context; suppose medical devices. Is there a “right” to medical devices that serve a health-care purpose? Did the Obama-Care 10% tax on medical devices raise revenue? Or, did it suppress the market for such devices? Had the tax been 100% or 1000% would it raise revenue or suppress the market?

      When government levies a tax or imposes a fee with the objective of raising revenue – or recovering its costs of rendering a service or cleaning-up indirect costs (pollution), then there would seem to be a legitimate government objective. Bear in mind that NO ONE will subscribe to a principle that real-estate taxes are unConstitutional because they tax the right to own property. Nor sales tax because they tax the right to earn a living from the sale of merchandise. Conversely, when it imposes a tax/fee with a manifest implication that it’s purpose is to repress the exercise of a right then there would seem to be a basis to object.

      Excise taxes on alcohol do not seem to be so high that they promote bootlegging; so, they are revenue-generating and permissible. Some state excise taxes on tobacco DO seem to be so high that they promote “butt-legging”; so, they exceed levels that generate revenue. As such, they might violate this “Laffer Curve” principle.

      How might this means of reasoning apply elsewhere? E.g., if a government imposes an 8% tax on the sale of a rosary, does that raise revenue or suppress the practice of religion? How about an $800 tax on the sale of a rosary?

      We need to think about such questions politically. We are not going to get a majority of voters to object to the $200 NFA tax on Silencers. We might get a majority of voters to resonate with a Laffer Curve analysis on “rights” using examples such as rosaries or medical devices. Once the principle gains traction, it will apply to every right; even the right to arms.

      1. avatar bob says:

        Correct.

        Fear with the Laffer curve being that SCOTUS may allow the maximum of the curve and the antis carefully monitoring this curve in an effort to drain as much extra from the purchaser as possible while simultaneously redirecting those funds toward the elimination of the right.

        Any tax acquired through an exercise of a right should not be used against that right.
        Also if you find the curve to match simple economics that you find the maximum people will pay before they stop buying, hence the curve, does not make it acceptable.
        This line I believe needs to be drawn by the end purchaser directly.
        An example of where Gov steps in and acknowledges this was the latest fiasco with Epinephrine Pens.
        This tool saves your life, whats it worth to you? Sole ownership, jack the price 10,000% and get rich quick.

        The same can be mirrored to the tax on firearms and ammunition, since the tax is all encompassing, there will be no competitive lower rate, therefore an extremely high tax can be added, thus creating a large influx of free funds.

        I say this should be the start of a new tax change, either tax income, or tax at point of sale.

        An example I always give is say Mark and I live close, I buy a new car, I pay taxes on it, I sell it to Mark a week later, he pays taxes on it, Mark sells it back to me a month later, I pay taxes on it, etc, etc, etc. After a few transfers Mark and I have paid more in taxes than the original purchase price of the car.
        Is that right or is it theft? Why would the second buyer need to pay taxes when the taxes were already covered in the original price? The original tax is proper as it covers the manufacture for profit covers that and as an income to the business is taxed. But selling an item at a lesser value than originally purchased is a loss so why pay more?

        Tax once.

      2. avatar Sam I Am says:

        Liked your analysis. However governments use taxes to punish and reward. Punish undesirable behavior; reward government with (allegedly) more revenue.

        Keep in mind that the left (meaning all the Dimowits) believes they can tax bad behavior out of existence, while simultaneously believing that taxation does not decrease economic behavior.

        “Liberalism is a mental disorder.”

        Just recently one of the gender weirdos proclaimed that it is a violation of human rights to assign sex to a person in the womb. Think on that. The same people who proclaim that the tissue in the womb resulting from copulation is not a person, are the people now declaring that the tissue has human rights (not tissue rights) that are violated by archaic concepts of sexual identity.

    5. avatar BRUCE CLARK says:

      They’re not taxing your right, they’re taxing your use of the gun. Oh, the last time I heard, the bad guys don’t give a damned about these taxes, and the good guys only care that they’re able to get ammo. Who cares? If they cared about the Draconian gun laws in Illinois they’d just have to move to any of the bordering states except Wisconsin to get away from it. Screw them, they voted for it, they’ve lived with it for 5 decades and allowed it to happen. They only have themselves to blame. The population of Illinois has dropped for the last 50 years because of taxes in general, so who cares? I got out of there in 1976, and never looked back. Best decision I ever made. And so could they.

  2. avatar ollie says:

    Unfortunately, there are only two solutions …… wait for the entire nation to become a big stinking Blue Nanny State…… or agitate for a peaceful dissolution into two or more countries.

    Frankly, there should be a planet wide requirement that nations with more than 150,000,000 people be split up into smaller units. Get rid of big bully states like the US, China, Russia, Brazil and India.

    1. avatar Arc says:

      And who is going to enforce this? The broken up little states? The opinions of others don’t apply to nuclear powers.

    2. avatar Sam in Ohio says:

      The 90 million or so Germans in 1939 and the 105 million or so Japanese in 1941 weren’t any trouble were they?

  3. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    as i’ve mentioned, cabela’s built just inside the cook border, a stone’s throw. so, gats.
    dropped little girl in ames last week. had feijoada (!) for the first time. yum. local bigbox had 1000rd bricks for $42. like i’m gonna give pr!ckwrinkle a twenty for a couple of those. she can go insert kandykorn.

  4. avatar former water walker says:

    Whatever…my LGS won’t tack on $25 to a gat or a transfer. And ammo from Cook co is ALWAYS more than Indiana a mile away. Cabela’s doesn’t charge me extra. In fact another LGS does a huge business doing transferrs across the street from Cook(Borderline in Steger). They advertise no Cook fee’s. Last handgun went through them…obviously this profoundly affects poor and transportationless folks. That’s the plan…

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      hammond will not- indiana is not in cook county. hoffman estates sure as heck will.

      1. avatar Binder says:

        The ammo tax killed Hoffman Estates. Everyone who is into guns just goes to GAT’s. Kind of sucks as Cabela’s had good prices on ammo. Still would rather buy a gun from GAT’s anyway as they are a real gun shop, but they are also a range, so you end up with range prices on the ammo. What really pisses me off it that the Walmart near me in just inside the county line, so that is out. You should see how full that ammo cabinet stays.

        1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          which is an acceptable end result for her (them) although i suspect the money would be welcomed.

  5. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    This is effectively an illegal poll tax.

    If taxing a right is perfectly fine/legal, then Conservative states should begin taxing abortions. The wailing and gnashing of teeth from Democrats would be epic.

    Remember, author Saul Alinsky teaches us to hold our political adversaries to their own standards. This would be a fantastic example of that.

    1. avatar Felix says:

      I believe there was a pretty big brouhaha some decades ago when San Francisco taxed those corner newspaper vending machines, which had proliferated to the point of 30 or more chained together at some corners. It was ruled illegal because it taxed an enumerated constitutional right (freedom of the press) and nothing else. The ruling said you could tax everything, including newspapers, but you could not target an enumerated right even indirectly.

      Sure seems like the same principle applies to gun and ammo taxes.

  6. avatar Deborah Kelly says:

    WHY is ANYONE surprised by this??? “Crook” County and the City of Chicago are notoriously bleeding heart liberals who DESPISE conservatives, LEGAL gun and firearm owners, honesty, integrity, character……I could go one but what’s the point?? Chicago and Crook County is nothing more than a swamp of depravity…EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is for sale, including those at the judicial level. I would discourage ANYONE or ANY business from ever coming here.! This is just another example of Crook County imposing yet another tax that they can in turn get their filthy hands on to spend as they see fit or simply to line their pockets. They have been doing it for DECADES here!!! I despise everything these officials represent!!

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    Watch them.raise it now that a judge okd it.

  8. avatar Shawn says:

    This was a foregone conclusion. It could’ve been a $2,500 tax on each gun and a $100 tax per individual bullet and it would still be up held. After all, it’s just “tax“.

    It will be upheld by every other court and SCOTUS will refuse to hear it. Expect them now to raise the “tax” dramatically. Expect other states and counties to do the same. New ballot initiative in Washington: if you want to buy a gun you must pay $250,000 “tax“. Also it will be retroactive; if you want to go and you must pay the state of Washington $250,000 per gun you already own ex posto facto. They will get the signatures. It will be brought to court. It may be struck in a lower court but the state Supreme Court and circuit court will uphold it and SCOTUS will not hear it.

    The courts and judges only want few things when it comes to guns and gun owners: That our guns are blanket banned, that they are confiscated by force with door to door warrantless confiscation and as many as of us as possible to be killed in the process.

    1. avatar BRUCE CLARK says:

      They’ll never go door to door to collect your guns. Way too expensive, way too much manpower. They’ll just eliminate the most important part that makes a gun effective and usefull in the first, bullets. A much safer, easier method at disarmament. Then they’ll sit back and twiddle their thumbs and wait us all out. Eventually the problem of the legally armed citizen will go away when they can’t get pre made ammo, brass, lead, and powder. Believe me, it’s coming.

  9. avatar frank speak says:

    don’t really feel SCOTUS can ignore all these cases…although I expect them to be selective…

    1. avatar BRUCE CLARK says:

      Scotus is just lackys of whomever political power is currently in office. For instance after 8 years of Obama imagine if the Democrats had won the Presidental Election and somehow also had control of both the houses? The first thing they would have done is appoint two Liberal judges and assassinate another one already on the bench like they did to Scalia and poof, they would have a super majority in the Supreme Court. Say bye bye to most of your supposed rights including the 2nd. Nothing could or would stop them. Then it would be back to the “Law of the fittest” days where the biggest baddest dude on your block would own everything you own.

  10. avatar Kap says:

    Paid off Judges, even SCOTUS, all use the tax angle too pass Anti American, Anti Constitutional laws, (the mandate on Obama care). WE are no longer free; just players in a gamed rigged by the Congress and Senators who are exempt from their own laws for life time, and are so fu*king brilliant they sit around and collect wages and Benefits for life while screwing the People and Blowing the Corporation’s and super rich,

  11. avatar Robert Jensen says:

    I remember a time when the the vast majority of the time judges actually made an effort to consider the facts of each case and also the concept of constitutionality before making any decisions. Those days are gone.
    It’s disgusting that most judges today are nothing more than political extremists on a power trip. Our country is in desperate need of help to turn this tide of shame back.

  12. avatar Alan says:

    The trial court’s ruling should be overturned, and all monies thereunder, having been improperly obtained, ordered returned to the payers, with accumulated interest.

    1. avatar BRUCE CLARK says:

      Good like on that pipe dream.

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