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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Appellate Court Remands Second Amendment Challenge to County Gun Taxes

Cook County adopted two ordinances to impose a special retail tax on the purchase of firearms and firearm ammunition. In 2015, a group of plaintiffs challenge the tax claiming it violated both the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Uniformity Clause of the Illinois Constitution. In that previous case (Guns Save Life v. Ali), the Illinois Supreme Court found the tax to violate the Uniformity Clause. 

More recently, plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against the County claiming the tax was unconstitutional because it violates their Second Amendment rights, and seeking money damages for themselves and for other similarly situated individuals for having been forced to pay the allegedly unconstitutional tax. The County filed a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit based on four arguments: 

(1) the current case was controlled by the Illinois Supreme Court's previous decision in Guns Save Life v. Ali

(2) the plaintiffs were seeking an improper advisory opinion; 

(3) the plaintiffs were alleging insufficient facts to defeat the motion; and 

(4) the ordinance’s tax does not exceed the U.S. Supreme Court decision that so long as fees are not exorbitant then they’re constitutional.

The trial court granted the County's motion to dismiss based on the first argument, holding that it was bound by the outcome of the Guns Save Life case because although the Illinois Supreme Court had relied only on the Uniformity Clause to find the tax unconstitutional, the Appellate Court had previously determined that the taxes did not infringe upon any protected Second Amendment right. 

In Vandermyde v. Cook County, the Illinois Appellate Court rejected the trial court's analysis, finding that nothing in the Appellate Court's previous decision in the Guns Save Life case retained precedential value as it related to the Second Amendment question, and so the trial court was entitled to review and decide the Second Amendment issues in the exercise of its own judgment. The Appellate Court also found the plaintiffs claims to be sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss and rejected the County's argument that the taxes were a fee, finding the taxes had no relation to the County's administrative costs in regulating the allegedly protected activity. As a result, the Appellate Court sent the class action case back to the trial court to review the plaintiffs' Second Amendment challenge. 

Post Authored by Madeline Tankersley & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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