4 Gun Shops Responsible for Selling Guns Recovered at 20% of Chicago Crime Scenes

Monday, July 13, 2015
Chuck's Gun Shop in Riverdale, Illinois (photo: Nathan Weber, New York Times)

A study by the city of Chicago on gun use found that a fifth of the guns recovered from that city’s crime scenes came from one of four stores in nearby suburbs. Now a suit has been filed against three of those cities in the hopes they’ll tighten their gun sales laws.


The report (pdf) found that Chuck’s Gun Shop and Pistol Range, in Riverdale, Illinois, sold 1,516 of the guns recovered from 2009 to 2013. That’s nearly one for each of the days covered in the survey. Midwest Guns of Lyons, Illinois, sold 659, Westforth Sports of Gary, Indiana, sold 515, and Shore Galleries of Lincolnwood, Illinois, sold 483. Activists are suing the Illinois stores. “This is a civil rights lawsuit to stop the export of guns from the suburbs into Chicago’s African-American neighborhoods,” one of the group’s attorneys, Michael Persoon, told the Chicago Tribune.


The suit claims that the stores are not forced to be vigilant about sales to minors and to straw purchasers—those who buy guns for others who aren’t allowed to. The stores are immune from lawsuits for the results of their gun sales thanks to a law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, pushed through Congress in October 2005 at the behest of the gun industry. So the plaintiffs are going after the cities where the stores are located to force them to institute common sense rules to prevent improper gun sales. In Illinois, municipal governments, not the state, are responsible for making such laws.


The suit suggests several changes in the cities’ gun ordinances. As outlined by the Tribune, they are:


--Mandating background checks for all gun store employees;

--Deterring theft through adequate surveillance and exterior lighting;

--Training managers and employees to identify signs of straw purchasing;

--Requiring dealers to maintain an alphabetical log of all gun sales where the gun was later recovered at a crime;

--Requiring mandatory inspections of a store’s inventory to help detect theft and trafficking of guns, and;

--Requiring video cameras to record the point of sale to discourage buyers who may use false identification.


Only one of the cities, Lyons, has commented on the suit and then only to note that they monitor Midwest Guns and the store adheres to federal law.


The suit will be a tough one to win, according to George Mocsary, a law professor at Southern Illinois University who specializes in firearms law. He told the Tribune that for a civil rights claim to work, there generally has to be an intent to harm a particular individual or community, such as African-Americans.  “I suspect that it will be dismissed,” he said.


Meanwhile, the cash registers in Riverdale, Lyons, Gary and Lincolnwood continue to ring.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Lawsuit Pressures Chicago Suburbs to Tighten Gun Shop Regulations (by Meredith Rodriguez, Chicago Tribune)

Chicagoans Connect Crime Guns to Lax Towns (by Rose Bouboushian, Courthouse News Service)

Suburban Guns: Will Chicago Lawsuit Stem Flow of Illegal Weapons Into City? (by Henry Gass, Christian Science Monitor)

Coalition for Safe Chicago Communities v. Village of Riverdale, Village of Lyons, and Village of Lincolnwood

Tracing the Guns: The Impact of Illegal Guns on Violence in Chicago (City of Chicago) (pdf)


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