Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It’s Chicago – Why Not Tax Corrupt Pols Instead?

 The President of the Cook County Board Toni Preckwinkle is proposing a “violence tax” to be levied on gun and ammunition sold within Chicago and the rest of Cook County. The county has a $115 million budget shortfall and is looking for ways to close the gap.
“If we were to pursue a tax on something like guns and ammo, clearly that wouldn’t be popular with the [gun lobby] out there, and it may not generate $50 million, but ... it is consistent with our commitment to pursuing violence reduction in the city and in the county,” Kurt Summers, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, said on Monday.
The tax is also a backdoor attempt at gun control which they are not shy about admitting. Summers says the idea of the “violence tax” is also to limit the number of firearms in circulation citing rising murder rates in Chicago as well as a rising number of inmates in the county jail. They are also trying to justify the tax by citing the cost of law enforcement, the court system, and trying uninsured gun shot victims in county-owned hospitals.

The idea of a “violence tax” is not sitting well with gun rights activists in Illinois.
“This is just another example of the blame game — Chicago and Cook County has a gun violence problem, Chicago’s got a high high school drop-out rate, they’ve got a drug problem, they’ve got a gang problem, but they want to make legal gun owners, guys like me, the scapegoat,” said Todd Vandermyde a National Rifle Association lobbyist who works in Springfield.

He said this is an unfair tax on a constitutional right that will hurt the poor.
“It is another way to enact a Jim Crow law and keep people from exercising their constitutional right, he said.

“All you’re doing is jacking up the price of guns and ammunition — for someone who can least afford it,” he said. “The problem with something like this is that you’re hurting people who don’t have the ability to get out of Cook County. So if you have someone in Englewood, they have to venture out to DuPage County, to Will County? I don’t think so.”
Board President Preckwinkle has not yet disclosed the amount of the tax. She is expected to announce her budget next week and the tax will likely be part of it.

In a later Sun-Times article, Preckwinkle defends her "violence tax" against the pushback she has received today.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle defended a plan to put a special tax on bullets and ammunition, saying the county has to find ways to pay for the health costs associated with gun violence and to curb such violence.

“Cook County suffers from systemic gun violence,” she told reporters at a press briefing Tuesday about the so-called violence tax, which was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times. “The wide availability of ammunition exacerbates the problem.”
Preckwinkle has already declined to raise either property or sales taxes to fund the shortfall. When asked about a tax on sugary drinks, she responded that "gun violence" (sic) is a bigger problem than obesity. Given the years of draconian gun control laws in Chicago and Cook County, it might have been a bit more honest on her part to say that soda drinkers and manufacturers are a bigger voting bloc/lobby than gun owners and she didn't want to cross Coke and Pepsi's lobbyists.  To paraphrase the movie Chinatown, "It's Chicago, Jake."

Kurt Hofmann, the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner, also has a column on these taxes as well as on proposals to levy such a tax on ammo statewide.

UPDATE: Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned notes that taxing a right for the purposes of discouraging it is unconstitutional.  He outlines the Supreme Court precedents in his post.

Thirdpower at Days of our Trailers points out the irony of Democrats objecting to voter ID laws on the basis of it disproportionately impacting the poor while doing the very same thing with the proposed "violence tax".

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the sister organization of the Second Amendment Foundation which successfully sued Chicago, issued a pointed rejoinder to Board President Preckwinkle:
BELLEVUE, WA – The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms today criticized a proposed “violence tax” on firearms and ammunition sold in Chicago and surrounding Cook County suburbs as a means of closing a multi-million-dollar budget gap.

The tax proposal by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle would be designed to help close what the Chicago Sun-Times reports is a $115 million gaping hole in the 2013 budget. The reasoning behind this idea is that “roughly two-thirds of the budget pays for both the county’s public health clinics and two hospitals along with the criminal justice system that includes the courts and jail,” the newspaper said.

“Law-abiding firearms owners in Cook County should not be shouldering the bills for criminals,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb. “Under Preckwinkle’s plan, honest citizens would be financially punished for the bad behavior of a criminal element that appears to be rampant and unchecked, considering the number of shootings and murders that have been tallied.

“This violent crime surge,” he continued, “seems to correlate with the election of Rahm Emanuel as Chicago’s mayor. Maybe President Preckwinkle should send the bill to Emanuel. Of course, he might have an empty wallet, considering the money he’s spent fighting court battles to thwart gun rights in the city, not to mention the $399,950 he had to finally pay to the Second Amendment Foundation this year for legal costs because the city lost the McDonald case.”

The newspaper quoted an aide to Preckwinkle who claimed the tax on guns and ammo would be “consistent with our commitment to pursuing violence reduction in the city and in the county.”

“That’s a pretty smug attitude,” Gottlieb said, “considering the body count so far this year. In September, just in Chicago, there were 41 slayings. That doesn’t reflect much of a commitment to reduce violence, but this tax idea certainly suggests that Preckwinkle – like so many other Chicago politicians – is trying to shift the blame for her problems to someone else.

“Perhaps Preckwinkle should consider an alternative,” he added. “How about a tax on politicians for impairing the gun rights of law abiding citizens by preventing them from protecting themselves, their families and their homes from the county’s violent criminals?

“There’s a problem in Cook County, alright,” Gottlieb concluded, “but law-abiding gun owners didn’t create it, and should not be taking the rap for it, financially or otherwise.”

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