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Cook County considers 'violence tax' on guns and ammo

A proposed new tax in Cook County, Ill., home of violence-plagued Chicago, takes aim at guns, and gun rights activists aren't happy about it.

County President Toni Preckwinkle wants to introduce a "violence tax" on guns and ammunition to help plug a $115 million budget gap in 2013. Under the tax, guns and ammunition would cost more, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, but Preckwinkle isn't saying how much more just yet.

The aim of the proposal is to curb the number of guns in circulation, Preckwinkle's chief of staff, Kurt Summers, told the newspaper. Summers cited a report from last summer showing that nearly one-third of the guns recovered on the Chicago's streets were purchased in suburban gun shops. 

The idea follows a violent Chicago summer, when some weekends saw multiple people killed and dozens injured in shootings. The city's murder rate is up 25 percent and the Cook County Jail is near capacity, with 9,000-plus inmates.


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"If it's going to deal with crime, I'm all for it," said Vincent Fracassi, who says he is not a gun owner.

But some residents questioned how much this would raise for the county and whether the tax would really cut down on crime.

"If we can tax cigarettes, it seems we can tax bullets and guns," said Chicago resident Cathryn Taylor. "But at the same time, I get the point that if people are buying the stuff illegally, then the tax doesn't matter because they aren't going through legal channels anyway."

Brandi Swafford said she doesn't think it will be effective. "You can get this from anywhere. You can go outside the city. There's always a way to get something illegally."

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No such tax exists in Illinois, experts say, but two bills that would create an explicit tax on ammunition are in consideration in the Illinois Legislature.

Elsewhere in the country, Tennessee has an ammunition tax, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. And right now, guns and ammunition sold across the country are subject to a federal excise tax that funds conservation projects. In Illinois, the local sales tax rate is applied to such purchases. 

Preckwinkle's budget proposal is set to be unveiled Oct. 18, and an ammunition tax isn't the only potential money maker on the table. The board president reportedly wants to lease the top two floors of the County Building in Chicago's Loop for what she estimates could net at least $1 million a year for 10 years.

NBC News staff contributed to this report. 

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