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Chicago-Area Gun Stores Sue Cook County Over Firearm Tax

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- Seven Chicago-area gun shops sued Cook County, which includes the city and surrounding towns, claiming a $25-per-gun sales tax unconstitutionally infringes on citizens’ right to bear arms.

“The tax is excessive and arbitrary,” the shops and four individuals claimed in a complaint filed today in state court in Chicago. “The tax which is imposed on law-abiding citizens and retailers has no clear and reasonable relationship to the victims of violent crime or to any other legitimate governmental or regulatory function of Cook County.”

The plaintiffs are seeking a ruling that the tax violates the U.S. and Illinois constitutions and an order blocking its enforcement. County Revenue Department Director Zahra Ali and Sheriff Thomas J. Dart are named as defendants.

The lawsuit was filed as Illinois’s legislature grapples with a U.S. appeals court ruling last year that threw out a state law banning anyone from carrying a loaded gun outside their home or regular place of business.

The court gave lawmakers 180 days from the Dec. 11 ruling to adopt a replacement law that passes constitutional muster.

The county enacted the gun tax in November with the expectation it would raise $600,000 in revenue in 2013, according to a statement published on its website.

Anti-Violence Fund

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said then the measure would be paired with setting aside a $2 million fund for violence prevention and reducing gun violence.

The tax becomes effective on April 1. Failure to comply with it can result in assessment of a $1,000 fine for a first offense and $2,000 for each subsequent offense, according to the ordinance.

Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, said she couldn’t immediately comment on the lawsuit. Sophia Ansari, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said it hadn’t been served yet with the complaint and couldn’t comment on the allegations.

No one could be immediately reached by phone at the county’s Department of Revenue.

The lead corporate plaintiff is ERP Inc., doing business as Chuck’s Gun Shop & Pistol Range in suburban Riverdale, Illinois. All the gun shops that signed onto the suit are located outside Chicago city limits.

The case is ERP Inc., doing business as Chuck’s Gun Shop v. Ali, 2013CH07263, Cook County Circuit Court, Chancery Division (Chicago).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in the Chicago federal courthouse at

aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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