Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has floated a new proposal aimed at addressing the overwhelming impact of gun violence on the county's coffers by introducing a new tax on guns and ammunition sold in Chicago and its suburbs.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Preckwinkle is looking to implement a so-called "violence tax" as part of her new budget, which is slated to be introduced on Oct. 18.
The tax, Preckwinkle's chief of staff Kurt Sommers explained to the Sun-Times, would be "consistent with our commitment to pursuing violence reduction in the city and in the county" -- if unpopular with gun rights advocates. Preckwinkle has not yet discussed the specific amount of the possible tax.
Gun violence in Cook County has taken a tremendous human as well as financial toll in recent months. Even as Chicago's murder rate in September decreased 30 percent compared to the previous year -- and shootings have declined for five consecutive months -- homicides are still up 25 percent this year.
As WGN reports, it costs Cook County $143 each day that an inmate is keep behind the bars of the county's near-capacity jail. Almost 70 percent of gun shot victims taken to Stroger Hospital's trauma center do not have health insurance. Their care comes with a price tag of $52,000 per patient.
The idea to tax the sale of ammunition in the county is not entirely new. As the Sun-Times notes, in 2007, then-Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado proposed a tax as high as 50-cents-per-bullet to help stymy gun violence.
Earlier this year, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) also aimed to introduce a new statewide tax -- of two percent -- on the sale of ammunition to help fund trauma facilities serving gunshot victims in high crime areas.
The bill was blasted by gun rights spokespeople including Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association who described the proposal as "just another scheme concocted by the Chicago Machine to punish law-abiding firearm owners."
"The lawful firearm owners of this state are under no obligation to pay medical bills racked up by gang bangers, druggies and other violent criminals," Pearson continued in a statement on the ammunition bill.