Cook County Commissioners have cooked up an innovative way to reduce street violence by criminals with unregistered weapons: Tax legal gun owners.

On Nov. 1, Cook County Commissioners voted 9-7 to impose a $25 tax on each firearm sold within Cook County. The tax is expected to raise $600,000 in revenue in 2013 to offset the costs the county accrues in treating uninsured victims of gun violence.

With the vote, the nation’s third most populous county — which includes the city of Chicago and its suburbs — becomes the first large U.S. jurisdiction to approve such a measure, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“We want to highlight this issue of gun violence and we also want to add to our resources to address it,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in presenting the proposal.

Preckwinkle claims that 670 victims of gun violence were treated by the county’s health system in 2011. The average cost per patient was $52,000. She stated that about 70 percent of the people who come into the health system with gunshot wounds are uninsured.

As of Nov. 2, there were 443 murders in Chicago, an increase from last year’s 435, and 22 percent more than in the same period a year ago, according to city officials.

According to Chicago Magazine, over the past decade, Chicago police have confiscated an average of 10,800 guns per year.

Few of these would have been assessed the new fee because the vast majority were bought and sold illegally within Chicago’s vibrant black-market firearms bazaar.

The tax is as unfair and ineffective as it is blatantly stupid, said Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Chairman Alan Gottlieb,

“Law-abiding firearms owners in Cook County should not be shouldering the bills for criminals,” Gottlieb said in a Nov. 1 press release. “Under Preckwinkle’s plan, honest citizens would be financially punished for the bad behavior of a criminal element that appears to be rampant and unchecked, considering the number of shootings and murders that have been tallied.”

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