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Chicago sues Indiana gun shop tied to more than 850 guns recovered from crime scenes

Westforth Sports in Gary “feeds the market for illegal firearms by knowingly selling its products to an ever-changing roster of gun traffickers and straw (sham) purchasers,” according to the lawsuit, filed Monday.

Chicago Police Supt. David Brown gestures toward a table of guns allegedly confiscated by Chicago police officers during a press conference at CPD headquarters on June 29, 2020.
Chicago Police Supt. David Brown gestures toward a table of guns allegedly confiscated by Chicago police officers during a press conference at CPD headquarters last year.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The city of Chicago is suing an Indiana gun store, accusing it of putting “hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal firearms” on city streets.

Westforth Sports in Gary is “knowingly selling its products to an ever-changing roster of gun traffickers and straw (sham) purchasers,” according to the lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County.

Those buyers then take the weapons to Chicago, “where they are resold to individuals who cannot legally possess firearms, including convicted felons and drug traffickers.”

In the lawsuit, city attorneys list several examples, including one man who bought 19 guns at Westforth over seven months, and another who bought five guns at once.

Studies cited in the suit allege Westforth Sports is directly linked to more than 850 guns recovered from crime scenes between 2009 and 2016.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has cited the store for, among other things, transferring firearms to straw purchasers after a failed background check, and failing to conduct a background check in the first place.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who normally won’t comment on pending litigation, made an exception this time in part because “the data is fairly compelling against that particular store,” she said Monday. “They are selling thousands of crime guns every year.”

CPD takes “more crime guns off the street every year than New York and L.A. combined,” the mayor added.

“It’s not because we have a better strategy or more focus. We’re surrounded by states and other cities that have much a more lax gun control environment,” she said. “You can literally go over the border to Indiana and get military-grade weapons in any quantity you want if you have the amount of money to spend.

Besides seeking unspecified monetary damages, the city, among other demands, also wants Westforth’s gun sales to be supervised for five years by a court-appointed monitor.

This is not the first time the City of Chicago has sued an independent gun shop. In 1998, the city sued a group of suburban gun dealers after 10 undercover CPD officers bought 171 guns in 62 days, using only three FOID cards between them.