A Chicago-area official has proposed a new tax on the sale of bullets and firearms in an attempt to quell the deadly gun violence that has ravaged the sprawling metropolis.
The proposal by Toni Preckwinkle, president of the board of commissioners in Cook County, which includes Chicago, has angered gun lobbyists and some local officials. But it was welcomed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“Anything we can do to put more police on the street and get kids, guns and drugs off the street is directionally something I have long fought for in my years in public service,” Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times last week.
Preckwinkle submitted a budget proposal on Thursday that would place a 5-cent tax on each bullet and a $25 levy on each firearm sold in Cook County, the nation’s second most-populous county.
Dubbed the “violence tax” by some elected officials, the proposal could generate around $1 million in revenues annually for the county budget, according to estimates by Preckwinkle’s office. These funds could be used to defray the costs that gun violence inflicts on the county, such as medical care for victims, according to Preckwinkle.
Last year, the county’s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital treated 670 gunshot victims—most of whom were uninsured—leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. The average cost of treatment for each of these patients is estimated at around $52,000, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Violence in Chicago appears to be getting worse, according to a report released by the city government last week. There have been 409 homicides committed in Chicago so far this year, up from 324 during the same period last year. Most of the violent crime in the city is gang-related, Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy told CBS News earlier this year.
Preckwinkle told a news conference Tuesday that she proposed the tax to address the “systemic gun violence” in Cook County and that “the wide availability of ammunition exacerbates the problem.”
The proposal has been criticized by some Cook County officials who say the tax would hurt local business owners who sell ammunition and firearms to honest citizens.
“It isn’t the law-abiding gun owner that’s going out in to the streets of Chicago and killing these innocent children. It’s mostly illegal gun owners. It will be the legal gun owners footing the bill for this violence tax,” Republican county commissioner Timothy Schneider told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Preckwinkle, meanwhile, says she makes no apologies for the proposed tax, citing popular American comedian and actor Chris Rock during a county budget meeting Thursday.
“As Chris Rock would say, if it costs a million dollars to society for every gunshot wound, we ought to charge a tax of a million dollars per bullet,” Preckwinkle told the meeting.