Op-Ed: Fighting Crime in Cook County by Taxing Bullets?

by Steve Chapman

For urban politicians, gun control is like the bar in "Cheers" -- a place of refuge they can seek out whenever things aren't going well. Things aren't going well on the crime front in Chicago, with homicides up 25 percent this year. So what else can our elected leaders do but promise action against guns?

Action against the possession and use of guns by violent felons would be a good idea, but the proposal offered by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is something else: a penalty on nonviolent citizens who bear no blame for the carnage.

Preckwinkle suggested a tax on sales of firearms and ammunition, with the goal of defraying the costs that gunshots create for the county hospital and jail. Her spokesperson couldn't say what the tax rate would be or how much revenue it would yield but said the fee would be "consistent with our commitment to pursuing violence reduction in the city and in the county."

It won the support of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who reiterated his commitment to "get guns and drugs off the streets" -- as though this tax would dry up the existing stockpile of guns or reduce the flow of new ones.

The levy was dubbed a "violence tax," which is exactly what it isn't. It would not target criminals who have malice in mind, but would fall entirely on the law-abiding.

Anyone convicted of a felony, after all, is ineligible for an Illinois Firearm Owner's Card, which is legally required to buy guns or bullets. Under federal law, felons are barred from owning guns. So ex-con gang members would not pay the tax, because they make all their purchases in the illegal market. It would hit only those gun owners who have used their firearms responsibly.

Click here to read the entire article at Reason.com.

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