A spokesman for the Cook County president’s office defended its ammunition tax increase in response to a report from Illinois Business Daily, taking particular issue with one gun rights group executive’s choice to compare the increase to a “modern-day poll tax.”
John Boch, executive director of the Guns Save Life who made the original statement, did not respond to requests for clarification. His original statements provided to Illinois Business Daily, however, include a hint as to why he may have made the comparison.
The revenues from the ammunition tax are earmarked for public health. Shuftan, in his statement, suggested the amount, estimated to be $800,000 annually, was designed to directly address firearm violence -- an amount he suggests is “not nearly enough.”
“Cook County has been a leader in supporting anti-violence initiatives,” he wrote. “But because our hospital system incurs a great deal of costs in dealing with the victims of gunshot violence, we felt a logical source of revenue would be a small, legal tax on bullets.”
Shuftan said he found it “bizarre” when Boch told Illinois Business Daily that the tax might be “legal but not constitutional.” The statement is likely a reference to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which was used in 2010 by the Supreme Court to dismantle a then 28-year-old handgun ban in Chicago. Boch did not clarify, however, how he felt the Second Amendment might apply to the latest tax.
“How can something (be) legal and not constitutional short of a court ruling?” Shuftan wrote.
The National Rifle Association supports a bill in the Illinois General Assembly that would roll back local taxes on firearms and ammunition, which would likely include Cook County. Passage of that law, Boch wrote, would pre-empt any legal action from his group.
Boch, however, also went after gun buyback programs as part of his original statements. Buyback programs often provide money or gift cards in exchange for the no-questions-asked relinquishing of firearms at drop-off events. The Chicago Police Department typically works with neighborhood groups, providing the payments and taking care of the disposal of the firearms, while the groups coordinate the drop-offs. An event at the Hope Community Church in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood in April netted “hundreds” of firearms, according to ABC 7. Austin has been the site of a sharp increase in firearm violence in the last year.
“If Cook County really wanted to reduce violent crime … they should be subsidizing the purchase of firearms and ammunition by law-abiding residents,” Boch argued in his original statement. ”Instead of encouraging firearm ownership among the poor, they are conducting gun buybacks.”
The Chicago Police Department told ABC 7 in October that it hopes to collect more than 2,500 firearms in 2016 through a gun buyback fund.