The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Preckwinkle Proposes "Violence Tax" For Cook County Guns And Ammo Sales

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 9, 2012 6:00PM

The Chicago Sun-Times reports today that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is considering a “violence tax” on gun and ammunition sales in the county as a means of curbing gun violence in the Chicago area and to help close a $115 million budget deficit.

The Sun-Times points out that such a tax won’t completely fill the county’s budget sinkhole, but it will be able to pump money into the county’s public health, criminal and courts systems. Nearly two-thirds of Cook County’s $3 billion budget is earmarked for those branches of county government. Preckwinkle Chief of Staff Kurt Summers told the Sun-Times, “If we were to pursue a tax on something like guns and ammo, clearly that wouldn’t be popular with the [gun lobby] out there, and it may not generate $50 million, but ... it is consistent with our commitment to pursuing violence reduction in the city and in the county.”

The proposal was floated as a way to help curb Chicago’s murder rate, which has increased 25 percent in 2012, and as a deterrent to buying guns in other towns in Cook County. A study released in August by the University of Chicago Crime Lab (commissioned by the Chicago Police Department) showed that one-third of the guns seized in Chicago were purchased in suburban gun shops, often by “straw purchasers” with no criminal records. Preckwinkle’s proposal drew the ire of Illinois’ gun lobby. The Illinois State Rifle Association released a statement saying the tax would generate little revenue and do nothing to stem violent crime in Cook County, if implemented.

“As with the county board’s past gun control schemes, this firearm and ammunition tax is just a smokescreen designed to obscure the fallout from ineffective government. Estimates are that about 90% of those people who commit murders in Cook County have previous criminal records. Likewise, estimates indicate that about 75% of murder victims have criminal records as well. These numbers are an indictment of the Cook County courts and the county’s correctional system.


“Whether board president Preckwinkle likes it or not, the demand for firearms and ammunition by law-abiding citizens remains strong - in great part due to the failure of the county to keep its streets safe. Imposition of this punitive tax on guns and ammunition will do nothing to stem that demand. The reality is that lawful firearm dealers will avoid the tax by moving out to the collar counties and take their law-abiding customers with them. And with their customers will go hefty sales tax receipts that far out strip any revenues that the firearm “sin tax” would generate. And lastly, passage of this tax on firearms and ammunition will make reelection bids much more expensive for those board members who vote for it.”

Guns and ammunition sold in Illinois are already subject to federal excise tax that funds conservation projects and Illinois sales tax. There are two pieces of legislation in Springfield that would place a tax on ammunition sales in Illinois, if they became law.