Chicago approves controversial $25 "gun tax"


An assortment of rifles and shotguns at a gun expo in El Paso, Texas, USA, on March 13, 2011.



The price of guns and cigarettes in Cook County, Ill is about to go up after Chicago commissioners voted to add about $40 million in new taxes to their 2013 budget.

Starting April 1, gun buyers will be subject to a new $25 "violence tax" while the cost of cigarettes will go up by $1 starting in March.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle added the taxes to a $2.95 billion budget proposal saying they will help defray the county's costs for the criminal justice and public health systems caused by smoking and gun violence, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The two systems together account for nearly three fourths of annual county spending.

“I think the revenue increases are small, they’re targeted and largely they’re avoidable, if you so choose, to residents of the county,” Commissioner Bridget Gainer, D-Chicago, told the Tribune. Gainer voted in favor of budget.

Preckwinkle made no apologies over raising the cost of firearms, saying Chicago can't afford any more gun violence.

"Gun violence is a real problem for us," she said. "It's a problem for us in our criminal justice system and it's a problem for us in our health care system."

Last month, she dropped a proposed 5 cent a bullet tax over concerns the tax would be more expensive than the ammunition.

Preckwinkle told NBC Chicago
that acute care for the average shooting victim cost taxpayers $52,000 and that nearly 70 percent of the victims don't have health insurance.

Chicago is struggling with overcrowded jails and a high crime rate. NBC reports that the city's murder rate is up 25 percent, and the Cook County Jail is near capacity with 9,000-plus inmates.

Preckwinkle also said that the extra tax on cigarettes could generate up to $26 million per year to help fund the city's health system.

This is the second hike in the price of cigarettes in a single year. CBS reports that the two tax increases add $2 to the price, bringing the taxes alone on a pack of cigarettes in Chicago to $6.67. New York is the only city with a higher combination of federal, state, county and local taxes on cigarettes, at $6.86 per pack.