Toni Preckwinkle, president of Illinois’s Cook County Board, which includes Chicago, has proposed new taxes of $25 on each gun sold and a nickel for each bullet sold. According to the Wall Street Journal, the bullet levy would amount to a 200% tax on .22 caliber ammunition.
Preckwinkle’s message to the NRA? “You’re welcome to sue,” she said. “We’ve looked at this and we believe we can survive any challenge.” She must not have looked very carefully at the issue, or she never would have proposed the tax in the first place.The Supreme Court has recognized that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right “to keep and bear arms,” which cannot be denied by the state. That means government cannot banish guns directly — nor can it do so indirectly by taxing guns out of existence.
Consider the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has struck down taxes that burden First Amendment rights: In 1983, it declared that Minnesota’s excise taxes on ink and paper violated freedom of the press. In 1936 the Court struck down Louisiana law that imposed special taxes on large-circulation papers. Liberals celebrate these precedents, and have waged a preemptive battle against any taxes that would burden the Roe v. Wade right to abortion.
If First Amendment rights are protected against burdensome taxation, then so are Second Amendment rights. The NRA should accept Preckwinkle’s invitation to sue.