CHICAGO (CN) – Four gun shops sold 20 percent of the guns used in Chicago crimes in recent years, and citizens have sued three suburbs, blaming their lax rules for unleashing a tide of guns used particularly against African Americans.
Three gun shops, one in each defendant city, sold 2,658 guns recovered from crimes scenes from 2009 to 2013 the citizens say, citing a 2014 report from the Chicago Mayor’s Office and police. “(D)uring that same time period, the average number of guns traced back to all other gun stores was three,” according to the city’s report.
The Coalition for Safe Chicago Communities and four Chicagoans on the South and West Sides, including a church minister, sued the villages of Riverdale, Lyons, and Lincolnwood on July 7 in Cook County Court.
The coalition says its members include Chicagoans “living in largely African American neighborhoods afflicted by violence from guns purchased in the jurisdictions of the three defendants,” bought in the defendant villages.
Seven people were shot to death in Chicago over the recent Fourth of July weekend.
This year alone 1,355 people have been shot in crimes in Chicago, according to the Tribune. The shootings are heavily clustered on the South and West Sides.
The city’s May 27, 2014 report, “Tracing the Guns: The Impact of Illegal Guns on Violence in Chicago,” found that most of the guns used in crimes in Chicago came from other states, with looser gun laws. However, the report found: “A small handful of gun stores, three from Cook County and one from Gary, Indiana, continue to be responsible for a disproportionate number of crime guns recovered on Chicago’s streets.”
According to the report: “(B)etween 2009 and 2013, just four local dealers supplied nearly 20 percent of the guns recovered at Chicago crime scenes. These stores – Chucks (Riverdale, Ill.), Midwest Sporting Goods (Lyons, Ill.), Shore Galleries (Lincolnwood, Ill.), and Westforth Sports, Inc. (Gary, Ind.) – are all within a short drive of Chicago and are the source of thousands of guns recovered in crimes in Chicago. By contrast, during that same time period, the average number of guns traced back to all other gun stores was three.”
According to the report, in those years, Chuck’s sold 1,516 of the guns found at crime scenes, Midwest Guns sold 659, Westforth Sports 515, and Shore Galleries 483.
Most of these guns “were diverted to illegal traffickers either through straw purchasers, theft, or other secondary transfers,” the coalition says in the complaint, citing the city’s report.
The coalition did not sue the gun stores, just the cities. It claims that Lincolnwood, Lyons, and Riverdale lack “the kind of comprehensive ordinances recommended by the City of Chicago report and adopted by the City of Chicago to curtail the flow of illegal guns to traffickers for use in the neighborhoods” of the plaintiffs.
“As set out in the City of Chicago Report, some dealers are willing to look the other way and make sales even when they suspect the buyer is a straw purchaser for illegal users or minors,” the complaint states.
None of the defendant villages have taken “common sense steps to reduce straw purchasing, theft, and other diversion of guns to illegal users,” such as anti-theft protections or video recording of sales, according to the complaint.
Nor do the defendant cities require background checks for gun store employees, or “make sure store employees can pass the same background checks as customers before they handle guns behind the counter and sell those guns to customers.”
Nor do the cities train employees “to identify common signs of straw purchasing and avoid selling to traffickers, minors, and other illegal users.”
Nor do they require gun dealers to log “gun sales where the gun was later recovered in a crime,” or to refuse service to customers who bought those guns.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is legally barred “from conducting more than one inspection a year, but the scale of the problem calls for at least quarterly and even monthly audits for the stores in the jurisdictions of these defendants,” the plaintiffs say.
After New York City implemented the cited safety measures at 20 top dealers of crime guns in 2006, its supply of crime guns dropped by 85 percent, the complaint and report state.
The plaintiffs claim the defendant villages are violating Section 5 (a)(2) of the Illinois Civil Rights Act .
They ask the court to order the cities to “revoke the licenses of dealers that willfully fail to follow these safety measures when required by their ordinances.”
They are represented by Sean Morales-Doyle with Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan.
Riverdale Mayor Lawrence Jackson said he had no comment on the lawsuit.
Lincolnwood said it “has not been served as of yet and therefore has no comment.”
Officials in Lyons were not immediately available for comment.
Riverdale, pop. 14,000, is a South Side suburb. Its population is 93.1 percent black and 3.8 percent white. Its median household income of $38,810 is 30 percent below the statewide median of $55,137, according to city-data.com.
Lincolnwood, pop. 13,000, is on the northwest side. Its population is 59 percent white and just 2 percent black or of mixed race. Its median household income of $87,119 is 58 percent above the statewide median.
Lyons, on the Southwest Side, has a population of 11,000. Whites account for 49 percent of its population, and Latinos 43 percent. Black and mixed races amount to 5.6 percent. Its median household income of $52,209 is 5 percent below the statewide median.
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