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Preckwinkle Drops Bullet Tax Component of Anti-Violence Proposal

 Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announces tweaks to her 2013 budget proposal.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announces tweaks to her 2013 budget proposal.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle dropped her proposed tax on bullets Wednesday while retaining the $25 tax on firearm purchases.

Owen Kilmer, a spokesperson for Preckwinkle, said the administration proposed the change in an attempt to focus resources on a more traceable component of Cook County's gun violence epidemic — the guns themselves.

"We found that it's easy to track guns. Twenty-nine percent of guns found to have been used in a crime were purchased legally in Cook County," Kilmer said Wednesday. "With bullets, it's much more tricky. There's no serial number, there's no way to monitor their impact other than [the] number of shootings."

The president revealed the new gun tax plan at a news conference Wednesday morning, marking the third revision to her $43 million revenue package in as many days as she struggles to lock down the necessary nine votes to approve her $2.9 million budget on Friday, Kilmer said.

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey said that the newest proposal mirrors his most recent recommendations, but doubles the $1 million he hoped to invest in anti-violence programs.

The plan also includes $2 million in grants for nonprofit organizations that tackle violence prevention, with $100,000 earmarked for efforts to keep guns purchased legally from being used in criminal activity, according to a news release from Preckwinkle's office.

That investment is the board's first concerted violence prevention effort, Kilmer said. Previously, the grant allocations from the county's Justice Advisory Council focused primarily on recidivism prevention and reentry programs.

Fritchey said he's optimistic that the latest adjustments will be enough to get the budget passed on Friday.

"I have no doubt that all of us share a desire to crack down on illegal use of guns," he said Wednesday. "I hope that at least a majority of us see this as a practical way to do it."

The Illinois State Rifle Association, longtime opponents of gun and ammunition taxes, has objected to Wednesday's proposal, which Executive Director Richard Pearson called "a tax on your Second Amendment right."

"We appreciate them not doing a bullet tax, but [that] you could go on one side of the county line and pay $25 more for something than you would pay on the other side of the line is crazy," Pearson said. "People will vote with their feet. They'll just buy guns someplace other than Cook County."