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Editorial: Give gun violence proposals a careful look

Friday, October 26, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

Violence, especially gun violence, is out of hand in Cook County, so any ideas to bring it under control deserve careful consideration.

A package of proposals by Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey fits that category. We like what he’s suggesting, but we know there will be debate over how to pay for his ideas.

Fritchey would like to set aside $1 million for grants to organizations that work to combat violence and provide programs for youths.

He also would create a special court to handle gun crimes, at a cost of $300,000 annually, and spend an additional $100,000 on a public-education initiative about the laws against purchasing guns with the intent of reselling them to criminals.

Fritchey says the county could pay for these programs without imposing taxes on guns and ammunition, which Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle proposed.

He would find the money by delaying hiring for 28 vacant administrative positions in the Cook County Health and Hospitals System for six months. (The system, which already has trimmed its administrative ranks, had no comment Friday.)

Delaying those hires would provide enough funding for the first year. If the programs proved successful, the county would be motivated to find new funding for following years, he says.

Pulling the plug on Preckwinkle’s proposed $25 tax on each gun sale and 5-cent tax on each bullet would avoid a likely battle with pro-gun groups.

But it also would eliminate the symbolic connection between new taxes and the huge cost to the public of caring for gunshot victims.

Fritchey argues the proposed ammunition tax is so high that it would simply drive purchasers out of the county. He may be right, but that doesn’t mean Preckwinkle must give up on the gun tax as well.

Funding violence-prevention groups is a worthy idea. The City of Chicago already has done that, giving $1 million to Cure Violence, the group formerly known as CeaseFire, to help calm tensions before they turn violent.

If a special gun court does a better job of enforcing gun laws, that could be a plus, too.

And Fritchey thinks fewer people would be willing to buy guns and then sell them to criminals if they realized they face serious criminal penalities for doing so.

That might slow the flow of guns from legitimate suburban shops to criminals in the city.

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