A potential Cook County tax takes aim at guns, and gun rights activists aren't happy about it.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is considering a "violence tax" on guns and ammunition to help plug a $115 million budget gap in 2013. Under the tax, guns and ammunition would cost more, but Preckwinkle isn't saying how much more just yet.
"Gun violence is a real problem for us. 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," she said during a brief meeting with reporters Tuesday.
Preckwinkle said acute care for the average shooting victim cost taxpayers $52,000 because nearly 70 percent of the victims don't have health insurance.
The idea follows a violent Chicago summer, when some weekends left multiple people killed and dozens others injured in shootings. The city's murder rate is up 25 percent, and the Cook County Jail is near capacity with 9,000-plus inmates.
"If it's going to deal with crime, I'm all for it," said Vincent Fracassi, who says he is not a gun owner.
The idea raises questions about how much this would raise for the county and whether the tax would really cut down on crime.
"If we can tax cigarettes, it seems we can tax bullets and guns," said Chicago resident Cathryn Taylor. "But at the same time, I get the point that if people are buying the stuff illegally, then the tax doesn't matter because they aren't going through legal channels anyway."
The idea has come up before.
Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) pushed for a 10-cent per-bullet tax back in 2007 when he was Cook County board commissioner. That didn't happen.
So far the results to the proposal are mixed.
"I'd see if it's been successful somewhere else and it if has, perhaps they ought to do it," said Hank Pietroszek, who is not a gun owner but has friends he said who will be "up in arms."
Brandi Swafford doesn't think it will be effective. "You can get this from anywhere. You can go outside the city. There's always a way to get something illegally."
Preckwinkle's budget proposal is set to be unveiled Oct. 18, and an ammunition tax isn't the only potential money maker on the table. The board president reportedly wants to lease the top two floors of the County Building in Chicago's Loop for what she estimates could net at least $1 million a year for 10 years.