States look to tax guns, ammo

by Judy Keen, USA TODAY  |  published on April 9, 2013

gun taxes

Cook County, Ill., this month began collecting a $25 tax on gun purchases, and at least six states are considering new taxes on firearms or ammunition as a way to help pay for the consequences of gun violence.

The Cook County tax applies to purchases in Chicago’s suburbs, but not the city. The tax is expected to raise $600,000 a year, which will help pay for indigent gunshot victims’ medical care at county-run Stroger Hospital.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a Democrat, says 30% of the hospital’s trauma patients have gunshot wounds and it costs about $52,000 for initial treatment for each. The tax won’t necessarily serve as a deterrent to gun buyers, she says, but “it’s an acknowledgment that we as a society pay a terrible price for the proliferation of guns.”

A group of gun sellers and owners sued to block the gun tax, saying it violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Circuit Court Judge David Atkins denied a temporary restraining order, saying the lawsuit didn’t show “that this right is threatened by the tax.”

Gun and ammunition purchases are subject to local sales taxes, and manufacturers pay a federal excise tax — 10% for pistols and revolvers, 11% for other guns, shells and cartridges — that funds wildlife programs.

Lawrence Keane, general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun manufacturers, distributors and retailers, says proposals for new gun taxes are “a coordinated effort by gun-control groups to try to impose a poll tax on the exercise of the Second Amendment.”

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