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Local gun store owner weighs in on Cook County idea to tax guns, ammo

Cook County’s proposed tax on guns and ammunition is getting mixed reviews from gun store owners.

On Tuesday, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said her budget office is considering a tax on guns and ammunition as a way to recoup costs stemming from gun violence. She also said the tax would align with one of her priorities, reducing the number of guns on the street.

Preckwinkle did not say how much the tax would be or if it would actually be included in her 2013 budget proposal due next week, but Don Mastriani, owner of Illinois Gun Works in Elmwood Park, said a new tax is not the best way to address gun violence.

“How do you regulate crime and violence? I mean, just by taxing it? I don’t know if that’s going to work because it’s just going to drive people outside Cook County,” Mastriani said.

Mastriani store is one of the closest to the city of Chicago. He said he “wholehartedly” agrees something needs to be done to address violence in Cook County. As of Tuesday, there were 401 murders in Chicago, a 25 percent increase over last year.

Preckwinkle said almost one third of illegal guns in Chicago are purchased outside the city in Cook County suburbs.

But Mastriani said instead of a blanket tax, the county should crack down on stores whose guns and ammo are consistently linked to violent crimes.

“When somebody comes in and asks you for a specific caliber of ammunition and yet they don’t know what kind of gun it goes into, or if they come in with a whole laundry list of ammunition, you know that’s usually a supplier of a gang,” Mastriani said. “It can become painfully obvious.”

Mastriani said it is not always obvious, especially in the case of “straw buyers” -- those who buy guns legally and then hand the guns off to someone else -- but Mastriani said the proposed tax will not do much to address that problem. He said it will hurt his business.

And as far as being a way to help reduce the county’s expected $115 million budget deficit?

“You think you’re going to balance the budget on that?” Mastriani said. “I doubt it.”

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