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Old March 15, 2013, 04:51 PM   #1
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Lawsuit in Illinois re:Cook County’s $25 tax on firearms

I think they're challenging it as a prior restraint:
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

Not sure what this means though:

The suit claims the tax infringes “on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear, and law-abiding Retailers to sell, arms as guaranteed” by state and local constitutions
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Old March 15, 2013, 07:45 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Luger_carbine
Not sure what this means though:

The suit claims the tax infringes “on the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear, and law-abiding Retailers to sell, arms as guaranteed” by state and local constitutions
The RKBA reference is obvious. The right to sell arms may refer to:
No ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of
contracts or making an irrevocable grant of special
privileges or immunities, shall be passed.
(Source: Illinois Constitution.)
That's a Spats McGee WAG, though.
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Old March 15, 2013, 08:29 PM   #3
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I'm wondering if the pro-tax people will admit in court that the purpose is to limit the number of firearms. That alone will sink their tax.
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Old March 15, 2013, 09:03 PM   #4
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I don't know, a tax is a tax, the legislature has the right to levy taxes.
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Old March 16, 2013, 01:07 AM   #5
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The lawsuit is apparently analogizing special taxes on the Second Amendment to special taxes on the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has said special taxes (those not generally applicable) are unconstitutional unless there is an "overriding governmental interest." Minneapolis Star and Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Comm'r. of Rev., 460 U.S. 575 (1983) available at

In Part III of the opinion (paragraphs 16-17), the court said:
The fears of the Antifederalists were well-founded. A power to tax differentially, as opposed to a power to tax generally, gives a government a powerful weapon against the taxpayer selected. When the State imposes a generally applicable tax, there is little cause for concern. We need not fear that a government will destroy a selected group of taxpayers by burdensome taxation if it must impose the same burden on the rest of its constituency. See Railway Express Agency v. New York, 336 U.S. 106, 112-113, 69 S.Ct. 463, 467, 93 L.Ed. 533 (1949) (Jackson, J., concurring). When the State singles out the press, though, the political constraints that prevent a legislature from passing crippling taxes of general applicability are weakened, and the threat of burdensome taxes becomes acute. That threat can operate as effectively as a censor to check critical comment by the press, undercutting the basic assumption of our political system that the press will often serve as an important restraint on government. See generally, Stewart, "Or of the Press," 26 Hastings L.J. 631, 634 (1975). "[A]n untrammeled press [is] a vital source of public information," Grosjean, 297 U.S., at 250, 56 S.Ct., at 449, and an informed public is the essence of working democracy.

Further, differential treatment, unless justified by some special characteristic of the press, suggests that the goal of the regulation is not unrelated to suppression of expression, and such a goal is presumptively unconstitutional. See, e.g., Police Department of the City of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92, 95-96, 92 S.Ct. 2286, 2289-90, 33 L.Ed.2d 212 (1972); cf. Brown v. Hartlage, 456 U.S. 45, 102 S.Ct. 1523, 71 L.Ed.2d 732 (1982) (First Amendment has its "fullest and most urgent" application in the case of regulation of the content of political speech). Differential taxation of the press, then, places such a burden on the interests protected by the First Amendment that we cannot countenance such treatment unless the State asserts a counterbalancing interest of compelling importance that it cannot achieve without differential taxation.7
By alleging the tax on firearms impairs rights under the Second Amendment, the plaintiffs are trying to place the burden on the county to show a compelling interest to do so. The county, of course, is trying to do just that by saying the tax is to "defray the cost of gun violence."
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Old March 16, 2013, 01:54 AM   #6
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IMHO, taxing firearms and ammo "to help stem gun violence" is like taxing water "to help stem wildfires".
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Old March 16, 2013, 06:50 AM   #7
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They can levy taxes, but a specific tax on specific behaviors (especially fundamental rights) are a non-starter. A flat sales tax on firearms sales is OK, but an extra tax is not. Our society is a soft tyranny right now;the government doesn't (usually) take over industries, but with our complex tax code they can make people run it how they want.
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Old March 16, 2013, 01:08 PM   #8
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"They can levy taxes, but a specific tax on specific behaviors (especially fundamental rights) are a non-starter."

The government does this all the time as in alcohol and cigarettes specifically. The cost of a pack of cigarettes in Chicago is now $10 largely due to taxes. Ironically people still continue to smoke and even more ironically smoking seems to be more endemic to lower income groups. Personal I don't care about the $25 as long as they come out with some kind of conclusive tolerable legislative package that will remain in existence for five or 10 years. My concern is once we agree it to the $25 and the FOID card and the training class and background checks and this and that, there will be something new that we have to do. This is getting old already.
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