Cook County mulls violence tax on guns, ammunition sales to curb costs, crime

Opponents are calling it a tax on the second amendment, but Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is mulling a violence tax on guns and ammunition sold in the city and suburbs, according to a report by the Chicago Sun-Times.

The purpose of the tax isn’t so much as a new revenue stream – the county maintains a $115 million budget deficit – but rather an initiative to curb the amount of guns that are on the market and decrease the ongoing violence.

Two pieces of legislation, HB5167 and HB1274, are currently in the midst of being tabled and are stuck in the House Rules Committee.  They are sponsored by Democratic Chicago Rep. Kelly Cassidy and 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns.

One of the bills proposes a two percent ammunition tax.  Past plans have included a 10-cents-a-bullet tax, which has actually been implemented in the state of Tennessee.

Police statistics note that murders in Chicago are up by 25 percent and the violence has led to the county jail to quickly fill up.  With a maximum capacity of a little more than 10,000, it currently has more than 9,000 inmates.  This, according to the county, is costing a lot of money.

“It impacts law enforcement, both at the city and the county [levels],” said Kurt Summers, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, in an interview with the Chicago news organization on Monday.  “It impacts the courtrooms, the public defender and state’s attorney that are in there, the judges that are in there, the clerk of the court that has to sit there, the sheriff’s deputies that are in that courtroom and it impacts the jail — the folks that are sitting there at $143 a day.”

The county has approximately a $3 billion budget and about two-thirds of the budget goes toward public health care, hospitals and the criminal justice system.

Summers went onto explain that if a person is shot then they are most likely going to wind up in a facility such as the Stroger Hospital, a Level 1 trauma center.  It costs $52,000 to treat a gunshot victim who does not have insurance, which is about 70 percent of the wounded.

Peckwinkle is expected to deliver her 2013 budget next week.  The budget was forecasted to be $267 million but has dropped to $115 million mostly due to various cost-cutting measures and higher-than-expected revenues.

The gun lobby has stated that it will fight the legislation.

Todd Vandermyde, a National Rifle Association lobbyist, said that Chicago and the county have a gun violence problem, which originates from drug, gang and education derelictions.  He added that it’s an iniquitous tax on the second amendment and it will hurt the poor.

“It is another way to enact a Jim Crow law and keep people from exercising their constitutional right,” explained Vandermyde.  “All you’re doing is jacking up the price of guns and ammunition — for someone who can least afford it.  The problem with something like this is that you’re hurting people who don’t have the ability to get out of Cook County.  So if you have someone in Englewood, they have to venture out to DuPage County, to Will County? I don’t think so.”

Others also make the argument that gun regulation doesn’t deter crime because an honest and decent citizen and gun owner will follow the rules and regulations.  Meanwhile, the criminal is indifferent to government laws and is not going to seek the necessary licenses in order to own or purchase a weapon.

According to FBI statistics and figures from the Metropolitan Police Department (up to 2005), when Washington, D.C. passed its gun ban 30 years ago, the murder rate went up, while the rest of the United States went down.  A report from the National Academy of Sciences studied the issue in a Critical Review and could not find a gun regulation that reduced crime.

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