CHICAGO (CBS) -- The City of Chicago has filed a lawsuit against a Gary, Indiana gun store – claiming it sold hundreds of guns that wind up in Chicago in the hands of drug traffickers and convicted felons.
The city's Law Department was joined by Everytown Law and Mayer Brown LLP in the lawsuit against Westforth Sports Inc.
The suit claims that Westforth ignored clear signs of straw purchasing and gun trafficking, including connections with dozens of sales both last year and this year in which straw purchasers ended up with federal criminal charges.
The lawsuit cites audit reports from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives that sow repeat violations and warnings – and even two recommendations that Westforth's license to sell guns be revoked, Everytown said in a news release.
It also pointed out that between 2014 and this year, more than 40 criminal prosecutions for illegal gun purchases in the Northern District of Indiana involved firearms sold by Westforth.
Among the specific claims in the lawsuit was that over seven months in 2020, one buyer bought 19 handguns from Westforth – 10 of them in multiple-sale transactions, and the other nine bought deliberately with the time spaced apart so as to avoid federal reporting requirements, Everytown said. The buyer kept one of those 19 guns for himself, but the others all went to people in Chicago, Everytown said. The buyer has since been criminally charged with making false statements.
Another buyer bought six handguns from Westforth in the spring of 2020 – including three identical Taurus handguns and two identical Smith & Wesson handguns, Everytown alleged. The complaint said such purchases of multiple guns of the same brand and make at the same time are "unmistakable warning signs of straw purchasing," but Westforth ignored it. Chicago Police ended up recovering one of the guns just over a month later while the other likely remain in the streets, and in December, the buyer pleaded guilty to a federal crime in connection with her purchases at Westforth, Everytown said.
A third buyer bought five Glock handguns at Westforth all at the same time in 2018 – including two duplicate and near-duplicate pairs, Everytown said. Such a suspicious bulk purchase suggests gun trafficking and this person was a trafficker, the suit said. Two of the guns ended up being recovered by law enforcement in Chicago during an altercation – and one of them had been outfitted with a laser sight, the lawsuit said. The buyer now faces criminal charges of making false statements.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday that while she does not usually comment on ongoing litigation, "I think the data is fairly compelling against that particular gun store."
She said the Chicago Police Department takes more guns off the street every year than the NYPD in New York City and the LAPD in Los Angeles combined.
"And it's not because we have a better strategy are more focused, but we are surrounded by states and other cities that have a much more lax gun control environment where you can literally go over the border to Indiana for us to say, and get military-grade weapons at any quantity that you want, if you got the amount of money to spend," Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said the data and analysis that the city has discovered and conducted with federal partners show Westforth is "selling thousands of crime guns, every year."
"And the time for us to stop to ask them to do better, and make sure that they're not selling the straw purchasers, do what they're required to do as a federally licensed gun dealer is over," she said. "We tried that, it hasn't worked."
CBS 2 tried contacting Westforth about the lawsuit, but no one from the store had responded as of late Monday afternoon.
for more features.