Branded as the “violence tax,” Cook County officials in Illinois are proposing a tax increase on guns and ammo, with the intent to curb violent crime and help close its expansive budget gap. Homicides in Chicago have boosted a staggering 25 percent this year, according to MyFoxChicago.com, and some officials are using the tragedy as a pretense to dilute the number of guns and ammunition in circulation.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle proposed the tax, claiming it would help fill a towering $115 million budget hole next year while stemming Chicago’s rapidly increasing gun violence in light of the summer’s climbing murder rate. "It's a problem for us in our criminal justice system and it's a problem for us in our health care system, and I make no apologies for the proposal," Preckwinkle asserted, adding that shooting victims cost taxpayers an average of $52,000 because the overwhelming majority of them do not carry health insurance.
Kurt Summers, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, explained how beyond the tragic human toll, gun violence plagues government coffers in numerous ways:
It impacts law enforcement, both at the city and the county [levels]. 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,” he said, referring to the daily cost of keeping an inmate behind bars.
Just how much Preckwinkle would tax guns and ammo is uncertain, but gun owners would largely be affected if dealers were responsible for paying the tax to the county’s revenue department. In 2007, then-Cook County Commissioner Robert Maldonado sought to institute a soaring 10-cents-a-bullet tax — even previously proposing a 50-cent tax — before the proposition was ultimately smothered.
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