Cook County Board Poised to Impose Ammo Tax

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posted on November 13, 2015
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The Cook County Board of Commissioners was scheduled to act upon Ordinance 15-6469, which would mandate a tax of five cents per each centerfire round and one cent per rimfire round. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said earlier this week she thought there were sufficient votes within the 17-member board to approve the measure at its Nov. 13 session. 

Three years ago this month, on Nov. 9 2102, the Cook County Commission approved a tax of $25 on each gun sold in the county, as part of the county’s 2013 budget plan. An ammunition tax was discussed as part of that original ordinance, but was dropped from the final version. 

At that time Board President Preckwinkle depicted the ammo surcharge as a “violence tax.” 

The 2012 ordinance, like the one proposed to the Commission this week, was brought forth by Cook County Commissioner Richard R. Boykin. 

“We should tax bullets just as we do guns to help government address the costs of violence. Currently taxpayers who do not purchase a bullet pay the full cost of gun violence,” stated an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times attributed jointly to Boykin and Preckwinkle. “We believe this is a fair measure, to make the cost of the product more accurately reflect the costs it has on the county and society. It’s no different than taxing alcohol or tobacco.” 

Any inference that the measure would somehow stem gun crime in this notoriously violent city is indeed ambiguous, as those who legally purchase firearms and ammunition in Illinois must possess a valid Firearm Owners Identification (FPID) card issued by the state police. 

If approved, Cook County would join the city of Seattle, Wash, which instituted a tax on firearms and ammunition earlier this year. That city is currently facing a lawsuit filed by firearms owners and guns rights organizations, charges that such discriminatory taxes are unconstitutional. 

If Cook County follows Seattle’s lead, it most certainly will face costly legal challenges to its action.

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