Chicago bullet tax takes idea from Chris Rock


A proposed bullet tax, a five-cent surcharge on ammunition, seemingly almost copied from a Chris Rock stand-up routine, has been proposed in Chicago, Ill. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Every so often, life does imitate art and a proposed tax aimed at fighting crime in Chicago is straight out of a Chris Rock stand-up routine. The city is proposing a bullet tax and firearm tax, which would add surcharges that would, ideally, price criminals out of gun crime.

There is no bullet tax in the champagne room

Many cities have problems with violent crime and recent reports indicate violent crime has begun to increase recently. The city of Chicago has crafted a strategy to deal with gun-related crime that is a serious case of life imitating art.

Stand-up comic Chris Rock said in his 1999 stand-up special “Bigger and Blacker” that he believed gun control wasn’t necessary, but instead there should be bullet control. “I think all bullets should cost $5,000…People would think before they kill somebody if a bullet cost $5,000.”

Later, the clip was used in “Bowling for Columbine,” the “documentary,” if one can call it that, by Michael Moore.

Such a tax on ammunition has been proposed in Cook County, Illinois, according to NBC News, as a “violence tax.” The funds are intended to help pay for some the costs incurred by gun crimes.

Would go to defray costs of crime

The proposed bullet tax was put forth by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinckle. She even cited Chris Rock as an inspiration to the Chicago Tribune. The tax is part of her recent budget proposal for next year. The surcharge, five cents per bullet and $25 per gun sold in Cook County, would net an estimated $1 million in revenue. Law enforcement would be exempt.

That wouldn’t exactly mean one would need personal loans for a 20-round box of rifle ammunition or shotgun shells, but a 500-round brick of .22 bullets, which is basically only good for target shooting, would be astronomically expensive.

Gun rights advocates are obviously not amused, but there is a rationale. According to, the homicide rate is up 25 percent this year in Chicago, which according to USA Today is mostly attributable to gang violence. The county is facing a $100 million deficit for next year and spends almost 75 percent of its budget on the criminal justice system, according to the Chicago Tribune. Almost one-third of the guns used in crimes are purchased legally in Cook County.

Similar proposals

This isn’t the first time such a proposal has been made. Various news outlets, including Reason and the New York Times, recount that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York proposed in 1993 to levy a bullet tax against ammunition for any use other than hunting or target shooting by 10,000 percent.

Preckwinckle intends the funds to go to treatment for gunshot victims and to law enforcement, which directly bear the costs of gun violence. According to the Chicago Tribune, treating a gunshot victim costs an average $52,000 and 70 percent of victims don’t have health insurance.


NBC News

Chicago Tribune


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