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2,370 crime guns were traced to just one gun shop located in suburban Chicago between 1996 and 2000. Over 1,300 have been traced to the shop since 2008–as well as 20 percent of all Chicago crime guns used within a year of their purchase. Yet Chuck’s Gun Shop, in Riverdale, far from being shut down as a virtual ATM for crime guns, has actually brought suit against Cook County calling a $25 gun tax that went into effect April 1 unfair.
Last week, Chuck’s and other Chicago area gun dealers and owners filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court claiming a new $25 tax on every gun purchase in Cook County infringes on the right to bear arms. The tax violates “the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear, and law-abiding Retailers to sell, arms as guaranteed” says the suit. Law abiding as in 3,670 crime guns seized on the street.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who served as a Chicago alderman for 19 years, proposed the tax to cover some of the costs related to gun violence by generating $600,000 in tax revenues per year. “Gun violence is a real problem for us. It’s a problem for us in our criminal justice system and it’s a problem for us in our health care system, and I make no apologies for the proposal,” said Preckwinkle when she proposed the tax, reported the Chicago Tribune last October.
Cook County, where Chicago resides, pays approximately $52,000 for each gunshot victim it treats, reports the Chicago Sun-Times–and 670 gunshot victims came through the county hospital’s emergency room doors in 2011. Clearly, the gun tax covers the cost of less than 12 patients, leaving 658 gunshot victims the responsibility of taxpayers. Thank you NRA.
This is not the first time Chuck’s Gun Shop has been in the news. After 16-year-old Blair Holt, the son of a Chicago Police gang investigator and a Chicago fire captain, was shot and killed riding the bus home from high school in 2007, Father Michael Pfleger, the outspoken pastor of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church and Rev. Jesse Jackson led 200 Chicagoans in a march to Chuck’s Gun Shop. More guns involved in crimes are traced to Chuck’s than any other gun shop, say police.
Then, like now, Chuck’s Gun Shop fought back. First it hired a semitrailer truck to park in front of the gun shop to block protesters’ access (the doors were tightly shut and locked). Then it hired an attorney who called Pfleger’s “kill-the-umpire”-like rhetoric against the gun shop owner “alarming” and “slanderous” and threatened legal action. Gun extremists deluged the archdiocese with complaints and Pfleger’s superior, Cardinal Francis George, sided with the gun lobby and not the priest. Yes, the Cardinal supported a business that sells lethal weapons over its own priest.
Thanks to the gun lobby, Illinois gun owners enjoy almost complete freedom from regulation. They are unlicensed, their weapons are unregistered and they don’t even have to carry insurance like people who own pools and vicious dogs not to mention car owners. Still, extremists portray themselves as “victims” and actually whined that the massacre at Sandy Hook had the effect of abridging their “rights.”
The $25 tax is bringing out the same victimhood. “There’s enough taxes on those [guns] already–we pay a sales tax,” Chuck’s Gun Shop co- plaintiff Deborah Gowder told the Chicago Sun-Times this week. “I had to pay $100 to qualify to purchase a gun–and I think I’ve paid enough.”
At $52,000 for each of 670 gunshot victims a year, Cook County taxpayers probably think they have paid enough too. END
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Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).