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Preckwinkle criticized for bullet tax idea

Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick and John Byrne

Democratic Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle faced criticism today after floating the idea of taxing guns and bullets to help balance the budget.

Commissioner Timothy Schneider said he’s worried such a tax would do little other than hurt county businesses that sell those products. “On first blush, anything that takes Cook County out of a level playing field with other counties, I can’t support,” said Schneider, R-Streamwood.

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said the tax would punish the wrong people.

"What’s causing the violent crime in Chicago are the drug dealers, the gangs, and if you are going to put a tax on something, why don’t you start taxing the gangs or the drug dealers," Pearson said. "They are just making law-abiding citizens pay for something that they didn’t do. That’s all this is going to do, and drive business out of Cook County, of course.”

Commissioner Gregg Goslin, R-Glenview, wondered how much help such a tax would be to address the county’s budget woes. “I can’t think that kind of volume of purchases would raise any real revenue,” Goslin said.

Still, Goslin said it’s likely Preckwinkle will find a majority of commissioners to agree to the tax if she decides to introduce it.

Preckwinkle met with reporters today, trying to frame the issue as being about health care. Preckwinkle said she doesn’t yet know how much she would charge per bullet and gun purchased, but would use the money to help pay for medical care for gunshot victims, to reduce the number of weapons on the street and address a serious shortfall in next year’s budget.

“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. Preckwinkle is set to introduce her budget next week.

Schneider noted law-abiding gun owners aren’t for the most part the ones sending uninsured shooting victims to emergency rooms, and said “bad actors” can buy guns on the street or easily cross over into Indiana or a neighboring county to make their purchases.

The county faces a $115 million deficit next year. Preckwinkle noted violence is a considerable expense for the county. ”Acute care for a shooting victim costs $52,000 on average, and 70 percent of shooting victims have no insurance,” she said. “Costs to Cook County go beyond those related to public health and medical treatment, as the county is responsible for maintaining public safety and for the prosecution and detention of those responsible for gun-related crimes.”

Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston, has long backed gun-control legislation. He said he would need to look at the specifics of Preckwinkle’s tax idea. “Any idea that will, one, help with the safety issue and help us pay for the tremendous cost to the county that gun violence causes, I’m very intrigued by it, but I need more details,” Suffredin said.


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