The Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has weighed in on a proposed “gun tax” in Cook County, Ill., just as its prime sponsor let slip that part of the money could be earmarked for grants to anti-gun “violence prevention” organizations.
This is liable to cause a firestorm from Bellevue to Chicago because a vote by the Cook County Board of Commissioners on the proposal is slated tomorrow. It may be a very busy Thursday evening for gun rights activists.
Gun rights leaders in Illinois are already fuming over the revelation, with the Illinois State Rifle Association taking the lead in that battle. ISRA partnered with the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation in the landmark 2010 Supreme Court case of McDonald v. City of Chicago that led to the incorporation of the Second Amendment to the states. SAF and CCRKBA are sister organizations, both are headed by Gottlieb, and he’s getting used to the political and legal landscape of Northern Illinois.
According to Reuters, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle “proposed dedicating $2 million to a violence prevention program, which would primarily provide grants to non-profit organizations with proven experience in violence prevention or community outreach.” Translation: The money would be doled out to anti-gun groups posing as “violence prevention” organizations.
That is not what she had been discussing since first proposing a tax on gun and ammunition sales about two weeks ago. The money was reportedly to be used to help fill a gaping $3 billion hole in the county budget because of soaring health care and legal system costs related to the treatment of gunshot wounds and the prosecution of gangbangers.
CCRKBA went to work several days ago, helping alert gun rights activists in the Prairie State. At the time, CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb declared, “Law-abiding firearms owners in Cook County should not be shouldering the bills for criminals. Under Preckwinkle’s plan, honest citizens would be financially punished for the bad behavior of a criminal element that appears to be rampant and unchecked, considering the number of shootings and murders that have been tallied.”
Yesterday, after Preckwinkle dropped her plan to tax cartridges at five cents apiece, but retained her intention of pushing the $25-per-gun tax on the commercial sale of firearms in the county, Gottlieb called it a “partial victory” but he wants the whole effort scratched.
“This proposal smacks of the same social bigotry that produced poll taxes on minority voters in the South,” he said in a press release. “Preckwinkle should know you can’t tax the exercise of a civil right.”
“Face it,” he added, “illegally-armed criminals are not going to pay any tax, so waging class warfare against legal firearms owners is way off target. What Preckwinkle wants is to penalize gun owners for exercising a constitutionally-protected civil right.”
According to Reuters, the gun tax is expected to raise $600,000 next year. That’s not enough to pad the county budget with the $2 million Preckwinkle wants to give away to anti-gun groups, but it will help.
There is not simply a moral issue here – taxing one social group to fund the efforts of an opposing group – but a legal one. Can a county government impose a tax on the exercise of a fundamental civil right?
This is not the same thing as the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition that funds the remarkably successful Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration program that is more than 75 years old. That program was supported by sportsmen’s groups, and the money goes to state and federal wildlife conservation and enhancement efforts, hunter education and range development. It is not allocated to organizations that study how to stop hunting or recreational shooting, or push restrictions on firearms rights.
Illinois gun owners are livid, and Preckwinkle’s timing might be one of the most monumentally stupid pieces of political nonsense to ever happen in Cook County, with elections just five days away.
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Second Amendment Foundation
Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
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