Sonzinsky v. United States, No. 614

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTONE
Citation57 S.Ct. 554,300 U.S. 506,81 L.Ed. 772
PartiesSONZINSKY v. UNITED STATES
Docket NumberNo. 614
Decision Date29 March 1937

300 U.S. 506
57 S.Ct. 554
81 L.Ed. 772
SONZINSKY

v.

UNITED STATES.

No. 614.
Argued March 12, 1937.
Decided March 29, 1937.

Page 507

Mr. Harold J. Bandy, of Granite City, Ill., for petitioner.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 507-509 intentionally omitted]

Page 510

Mr. Brien McMahon, Asst. Atty. Gen., for the United States.

[Argument of Counsel from Page 510 intentionally omitted]

Page 511

Mr. Justice STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question for decision is whether section 2 of the National Firearms Act of June 26, 1934, c. 757, 48 Stat. 1236, 26 U.S.C. §§ 1132—1132q (26 U.S.C.A. §§ 1132—1132q), which imposes a $200 annual license tax on dealers in firearms, is a constitutional exercise of the legislative power of Congress.

Petitioner was convicted by the District Court for Eastern Illinois on two counts of an indictment, the first charging him with violation of section 2 (26 U.S.C.A. § 1132a), by dealing in firearms without payment of the tax. On appeal the Circuit Court of Appeals set aside the conviction on the second count and affirmed on the first. 86 F.(2d) 486. On petition of the accused we granted certiorari, limited to the question of the constitutional validity of the statute in its application under the first count in the indictment. 300 U.S. 648, 57 S.Ct. 491, 81 L.Ed. —-.

Section 2 of the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C.A. § 1132a) requires every dealer in firearms to register with the Collector of Internal Revenue in the district where he carries on business, and to pay a special excise tax of $200 a year. Importers or manufacturers are taxed $500 a year. Section 3 (26 U.S.C.A. § 1132b) imposes a tax of $200 on each transfer of a firearm, payable by the transferor, and section 4 (26 U.S.C.A. § 1132c) prescribes regulations for the identification of purchasers. The term 'firearm' is defined by section 1 (26 U.S.C.A. § 1132) as meaning a shotgun or a rifle having a barrel less than eighteen inches in length, or any other weapon, ex-

Page 512

cept a pistol or revolver, from which a shot is discharged by an explosive, if capable of being concealed on the person, or a machine gun, and includes a muffler or silencer for any firearm. As the conviction for nonpayment of the tax exacted by section 2 has alone been sustained, it is unnecessary to inquire whether the different tax levied by section 3 and the regulations pertaining to it are valid. Section 16 (26 U.S.C.A. § 1132o) declares that the provisions of the act are separable. Each tax is on a different activity and is collectible independently of the other. Full effect may be given to the license tax standing alone, even though all other provisions are invalid. Weller v. New York, 268 U.S. 319, 45 S.Ct. 556, 69 L.Ed. 978; Marshall Field & Co. v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 697, 12 S.Ct. 495, 36 L.Ed. 294; cf. Champlin Refining Co. v. Corporation Commission, 286 U.S. 210, 234, 52 S.Ct. 559, 564, 76 L.Ed. 1062, 86 A.L.R. 403.

In the exercise of its constitutional power to lay taxes, Congress may select the subjects of taxation, choosing some and omitting others. See Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107, 158, 31 S.Ct. 342, 55 L.Ed. 389, Ann.Cas.1912B, 1312; Nicol v. Ames, 173 U.S. 509, 516, 19 S.Ct. 522, 43 L.Ed. 786; Bromley v. McCaughn, 280 U.S. 124, 50 S.Ct. 46, 74 L.Ed. 226. Its power extends to the imposition of exercise taxes upon the doing of business. See License Tax Cases, 5 Wall. 462, 18 L.Ed. 497; Spreckles Sugar Refining Co. v. McClain, 192 U.S. 397, 412, 24 S.Ct. 376, 48 L.Ed. 496; United States v. Doremus, 249 U.S. 86, 94, 39 S.Ct. 214, 63 L.Ed. 493. Petitioner does not deny that Congress may tax his business as a dealer in firearms. He insists that the present levy is not a true tax, but a penalty imposed for the purpose of suppressing traffic in a certain noxious type of firearms, the local regulation of which is reserved to the states because not granted to the national government. To establish its penal and prohibitive character, he relies...

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185 practice notes
  • State v. United States Dep't of Health, Nos. 11–11021
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 12, 2011
    ...is “productive of some revenue,” Congress may enact it under its taxing power. Id. (quoting [648 F.3d 1314] Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, 514, 57 S.Ct. 554, 556, 81 L.Ed. 772 (1937)). Furthermore, the government contends our review is limited because “the constitutional restrain......
  • Thompson/Center Arms Co. v. Baker, Civ. No. 87-260-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • April 29, 1988
    ...238 F.2d 552 (9th Cir.1956), and that the making and transfer taxes under the NFA are a form of excise tax. Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, 512, 57 S.Ct. 554, 555, 81 L.Ed. 772 (1937). Thus, this litigation calls into question a specific provision of the Internal Revenue Code and ......
  • Marchetti v. United States Grosso v. United States, Nos. 2
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 29, 1968
    ...has Page 80 repeatedly recognized that 'a tax is not any the less a tax because it has a regulatory effect.' Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, 513, 57 S.Ct. 554, 556, 81 L.Ed. 772 (1937). See also License Tax Cases, 5 Wall. 462, 18 L.Ed. 497 (1867). In declaring the registration req......
  • Liberty Univ. Inc. v. Merrill, No. 6:10–cv–00015–nkm.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • November 30, 2010
    ...unlawful act.”). This distinction is not always easy to draw, as “[e]very tax is in some measure regulatory,” Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, 513, 57 S.Ct. 554, 81 L.Ed. 772 (1937), and a regulatory penalty can raise revenue much like a tax would. The attempt to distinguish a tax ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
182 cases
  • State v. United States Dep't of Health, Nos. 11–11021
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 12, 2011
    ...is “productive of some revenue,” Congress may enact it under its taxing power. Id. (quoting [648 F.3d 1314] Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, 514, 57 S.Ct. 554, 556, 81 L.Ed. 772 (1937)). Furthermore, the government contends our review is limited because “the constitutional restrain......
  • Thompson/Center Arms Co. v. Baker, Civ. No. 87-260-D.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • April 29, 1988
    ...238 F.2d 552 (9th Cir.1956), and that the making and transfer taxes under the NFA are a form of excise tax. Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, 512, 57 S.Ct. 554, 555, 81 L.Ed. 772 (1937). Thus, this litigation calls into question a specific provision of the Internal Revenue Code and ......
  • Marchetti v. United States Grosso v. United States, Nos. 2
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 29, 1968
    ...has Page 80 repeatedly recognized that 'a tax is not any the less a tax because it has a regulatory effect.' Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, 513, 57 S.Ct. 554, 556, 81 L.Ed. 772 (1937). See also License Tax Cases, 5 Wall. 462, 18 L.Ed. 497 (1867). In declaring the registration req......
  • Liberty Univ. Inc. v. Merrill, No. 6:10–cv–00015–nkm.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • November 30, 2010
    ...unlawful act.”). This distinction is not always easy to draw, as “[e]very tax is in some measure regulatory,” Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506, 513, 57 S.Ct. 554, 81 L.Ed. 772 (1937), and a regulatory penalty can raise revenue much like a tax would. The attempt to distinguish a tax ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • THE TRAJECTORY OF FEDERAL GUN CRIMES.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 170 Nbr. 3, February 2022
    • February 1, 2022
    ...171 (2019) (discussing how prosecutorial power is circumscribed in myriad ways). (17) See infra Part III. (18) Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U.S. 506 (1937); United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939); Tot v. United States, 319 U.S. 463 (1943); Haynes v. United States, 390 U.S. 85 (1968......
  • A History of United States Cannabis Law.
    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 34 Nbr. 1, September 2020
    • September 22, 2020
    ...(55) See id. at 94-95. (56) See id. at 95. (57) See id. at 95-111. (58) See id. at 115. (59) See id. at 118. (60) See id. at 124-26. (61) 300 U.S. 506 (62) See BONNIE & WHITEBREAD II, supra note 5, at 126. (63) See id. at 154. (64) See id. at 164-65. (65) See generally id. at 175-86. (6......
  • A Political-Economic Solution of the Coal Problem
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 3-4, December 1950
    • December 1, 1950
    ...16 Hall, op. cit., pp. 12-15. 17 259 U. S. 20 (1922). 18 United States v. Doremus, 249 U. S. 86 (1919); Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U. S. 506 Constitution must be apportioned among the states according to popula-tion, for it &dquo;is a tax laid only upon the exercise of a single one of ......

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