Chicago's controversial new gun proposal

Will other cities adapt some version of a tax on bullets and firearms? Voters should be leery of simple solutions to complex problems.

By Jonathan Berr Oct 19, 2012 4:59PM
 Men with toy guns --Leander Baerenz/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesMore than a decade ago, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan figured that the best way to combat rising gun violence was to slap a 10,000% tax on some types of ammunition, such as hollow-point bullets, linked to violent crime. The gun lobby hated the idea then, and hates a similar idea that has emerged, though to a lesser extent, in Chicago, the nation's murder capital.

Officials in Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, have proposed a tax of 5 cents per bullet and $25 on each firearm sold to defray the medical costs of victims of gun violence, which average $52,000. Taxpayers wound up footing the medical bill for 670 victims last year who didn't have insurance. The proposal is sure to generate legal challenges by gun rights advocates.

"There would be a solid legal argument against it," John Frazer, the National Rifle Association's director of research and information, said in an interview, adding that courts have struck down "discriminatory taxes that are aimed at the exercise of a fundamental right."

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence rejects this argument.

"My response is that gun deaths and injuries hurt every member of society in multiple ways," writes Laura Cutilletta, a senior attorney with the organization, in an email.
"This tax isn't discriminatory and it doesn't prevent the exercise of any right. It merely seeks to compensate the residents of Cook County for a minor part of the enormous toll gun violence takes every day."
 
There are a few issues to consider here.

For one thing, the tax proposed by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is only expected to raise about $1 million, a drop in the bucket considering the medical bills being paid for by taxpayers is about $40 million. The other issue is one of fairness.

Some might argue that Cook County is punishing law-abiding gun owners for the actions of criminals who probably don't buy their weapons legally. The NRA says that Chicago's high murder rate is due to many reasons, including a lack of prosecutions for gun crimes.

Officials in six other states have tried and failed to institute similar taxes. Whether officials in other cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Miami will embrace the idea remains to be seen. It isn't even clear whether Preckwinkle has the votes to pass the measure through her board. 

"The statutory environment here is complicated," said Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, in an email. "There are questions about state pre-emption that would need to be examined, and so, we don’t want to wade into the issue at this time."

In an interview with a local PBS station, Preckwinkle said she was motivated by the principle of the tax rather than its monetary consequences. She estimates that 29% of the guns used in crimes in Chicago were legally acquired in the suburbs of Cook County. "We have had terrible problems in this county with gun violence," she said.

It's hard to argue with that point. In one particularly heart-breaking case, 7-year-old Heaven Sutton was gunned down by a stray bullet shot by a reputed gang member in front of her mother's candy stand.

Whether it's gun violence or obesity, politicians like to hone in on simple solutions to solve complicated problems. In the case of guns, it is an issue that is better addressed at the federal level. Unfortunately, in hyper-partisan Washington, the odds of it being addressed are slim to none.

--Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter@jdberr.


More on MSN Money

Tags: taxes
50Comments
Oct 22, 2012 10:49AM
avatar
If guns cause crime, then pencils cause misspelled words, cars cause accidents and beer causes DUI's. They still don't get it. The people armed in Chicago are the ones that don't need to be. Criminals don't obey laws. Law abiding citizens do, yet they punish and persecute the people who are not committing the crimes. Unbelievable!
Oct 21, 2012 9:51PM
avatar
All you are doing is screwing law-abiding citizens and local businesses. It isn't like there isn't such thing as the internet and even driving to the next town or county isn't exactly difficult. Then again, no one ever said politicians were logical.
Oct 20, 2012 7:41PM
avatar
This proposal is so silly, I am surprised the media is reporting it. However, Chicago is such a cesspool of political corruption and so broke theres no telling what they will decide to tax.
Oct 22, 2012 9:21AM
avatar
Perhaps their problem is too many democrats. We don't have these types of problems in Repulican towns.
Oct 22, 2012 2:24PM
avatar
What irrational idiot thinks that someone wanting to murder someone or use a gun in a crime won't because they have to load the (most likely illegal) firearm with 55 cents total of taxed bullets?

Its the Chicago and Democrat idiots, of course.

Oct 20, 2012 4:37PM
avatar
Another attempt to tear away at our 2nd Amendment rights by taxing gun owners. This is unconstitutional....!!! Those that commit the crime should pay the hospital bills. Another Bias article and attempt at a tax to slowly erode gun owners righst. ALL those officals that Proposed this tax should be VOTED OUT ASAP...!!! Take Names and VOTE THEM OUT...!!!! Great picture of happy go lucky an irresponsible gun owners firing into the sky...what a bias misrepresentation.....!!!! MSN is a laughing stock for its reporting of fake stories, false endorsements, distorted views and promoting NWO agendas and even writing this New World Order agenda's stories and misguided attempts to change our minds or anyone's mind for that matter. Everyone Knows in case you are the last to know..... That MSN is an arm of the NEW WORLD ORDER MEDIA PROPAGANDA MACHINE...!!! And of course it mentions a PBS station...PBS is also CONTROLED BY THE NEW WORLD ORDER AGENDA...and so is NPR National Public Radio....!!!
Oct 21, 2012 9:08AM
avatar
Those 670 shooting victims last year DID NOT have thier bills paid by the city or state. The medical facilities wrote off the bills. That is why folks who work and have heath care complain. These institutions charge the 'haves' more knowing they will need to cover the have nots. This reporter is pretty naive or uniformed---no surprise.
Oct 22, 2012 2:33PM
avatar
Logic of a liberal. Make guns illegal so that criminals will stop obtaining them. Make marijuana legal so that those that have been breaking the law won't be breaking it any longer  when they continue to use it.
Oct 22, 2012 5:28PM
avatar
The real controversy is that every punk in Chicago has a gun while honest citizens have been prevented from legally owning one.
Oct 22, 2012 4:39PM
avatar

Yes! Lets let the law abiding citizens pay extra money for the problems that are created by non-law abiding citizens! Way to go politicians!!!

 

Hey, lets impose a SEX TAX for people who have unwanted pregnancies.

Oct 22, 2012 2:26PM
avatar
The heavier the area is democrat, the higher the crime rate.
Oct 22, 2012 3:00PM
avatar
Hmmm... the second amendment is a RIGHT.  like voting....

Maybe we should have a poll tax, to keep the stupid  from voting.  We can have a test in high school.  Those with 12th grade reading and math skills can vote....

Oh wait that leaves just about no democrats or victims of the 'public option' in education...

Maybe we should grant votes to those that pay at least $12000/year in taxes?  after  all thats what the Federal government spends per person.  Maybe we should only let those that PAY for government VOTE.

Sounds about the same...  Socialists always want to disarm the public.  After all a disarmed public is way easier to fleece and force to work...  
Oct 22, 2012 6:23PM
avatar
If Chicago could tax corruption at 10% then they would be able to cover their budget.
Oct 23, 2012 2:38PM
avatar
Chicago's high murder rate is because the high concentrations of people that don't give a damn about gun laws or other laws for that matter. Isn't Obama a resident of Chicago?
Oct 22, 2012 2:25PM
avatar
Wait a second!  Isn't Obamacare supposed to fix this problem anyway?  Taxpayers won't be subsidizing the uninsured outiside of their Obamacare contribution/tax.
Oct 23, 2012 5:27AM
avatar
This is not my quote. Another old timer said it a few years ago. "If I'm going down, I'm going down with my finger on the trigger". I'm no expert and don't shoot too much anymore, but I'll get you 6 rounds in the top of a coffee cup. That's all I'm going to say. 
Oct 22, 2012 5:21PM
avatar

GUNS DONT KILL, PEOPLE WHO PULL TRIGERS KILL ! i CAN LEAVE A GUN LOADED WITH ONE IN THE CHANBER ON THE GROUND AND WALK AWAY... AND UNLESS SOMEONE PICKS IT UP AND AIMS IT AT AN OBJECT OR PERSON... THEN PULLS THE TRIGER ... ONLY THEN DOES THE GUN BECOME DANGEROUS!

 

 

ITS JUST ANOTHER TAXATION BY GREEDY **** ILL. STATE WITH THEIR CORRUPT OFFICIALS.. IF ITS SO BAD THEN MOVE!!!!!!! KIND OF LIKE THE SAME STUPID PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN TORNADO VALLEY... YOUR HOUSE IS ON WHEELS.... JUST ROLL OUT!!!!!!!!!! 

Oct 24, 2012 12:18PM
avatar

Interesting thing is, that once the lawabiding populace of Chicago is allowed to have concealed carry permits, gun violence will likely go DOWN, and the hospitals will have fewer patients, etc.

And the Mayor and his cronies will have more tax money to squander, and will attribute the drop in gun-related crime to their WONDERFUL police force (I am NOT denigrating the police here btw).

Oct 24, 2012 11:35AM
avatar
Gun violence is merely a symptom of a much larger problem in these 'urban' areas. Even if the powers at be could snap their fingers and magically eliminate every firearm in existence those places would still be degenerate messes.
Oct 22, 2012 5:14PM
avatar
A GUN w/BULLETS is a product that has a person who operates it--very much like an automobile, So, just make everyone who buys a gun have to show proof of insurance or they don't get to buy it.  That's the interesting thing about the illegal status of people who operate vehicles in this country and have an accident.  We pay for our own personal protection...which is what's going to help solve the problem when we all get universal health coverage.  Will it make driving a car or gun ownership more responsible.  PERHAPS?
Report
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
Categories
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

DATA PROVIDERS

Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

RECENT QUOTES

WATCHLIST

Symbol
Last
Change
Shares
Quotes delayed at least 15 min
Sponsored by:

MARKET UPDATE

NAMELASTCHANGE% CHANGE
There’s a problem getting this information right now. Please try again later.
NAMELASTCHANGE% CHANGE
There’s a problem getting this information right now. Please try again later.
Market index data delayed by 15 minutes

[BRIEFING.COM] The early advance for the market ran into some technical resistance with the S&P 500 pushing the 1871 level.  Now, the major indices are mixed as a wave of selling interest has flattened everything out in what has been termed a sloppy session so far.

Notably, we are seeing some relative strength in the defensive-oriented utilities (+0.4%), telecom services (+0.3%), and health care (+0.2%) sectors.  Conversely, the influential financial sector (-0.1%) is ... More


Currencies

NAMELASTCHANGE% CHANGE
There’s a problem getting this information right now. Please try again later.