The city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against a northwest Indiana gun retailer Monday, alleging it has knowingly sold hundreds of guns to traffickers and straw purchasers who've transported the weapons to Chicago and sold them to convicted felons and drug traffickers.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the Cook County Circuit Court's Chancery Division, accuses the Gary business Westforth Sports of creating, exacerbating and sustaining a "public nuisance that causes harm to the health, safety and well-being of Chicago residents."
According to studies cited by a court complaint, Westforth was consistently ranked as the highest out-of-state supplier of "crime guns in the city" between 2009 and 2016, with more than 850 weapons recovered during that period. Furthermore, federal prosecutors revealed that approximately 44% of illegal gun purchases from December 2014 to April 2021 in the Northern District of Indiana involved sales at the gun store, court documents added.
Over the course of several years, Westforth has been cited for dozens of violations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, including failing to conduct a background check before transferring a firearm to a customer and repeat failure to report sales of multiple handguns, the lawsuit stated.
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The city of Chicago seeks damages and a court order to halt the business from continuing practices it contends contribute to the city's growing epidemic of gun violence.
"...It has become even more clear that holding accountable all those who contribute to gun violence here, regardless of where they are located, is key to our ability to create a safer Chicago," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday in a news release from Everytown Law, the litigation arm of the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. "This lawsuit is about addressing a major source of illegal guns recovered in our city, and it should send an unmistakable signal about our commitment to reducing gun violence and stopping gun trafficking.”
According to the lawsuit, Westforth "chose time and time again to look the other way and to falsify transaction forms" and become a trusted source for traffickers and straw purchasers.
"This lawsuit should be a wake-up call to ATF to take long-overdue action against Westforth to protect the public," said Alla Lefkowitz, director of affirmative litigation for Everytown Law.
NBC 5 reached out to Westforth, and a manager confirmed the business received word of the lawsuit Monday afternoon, but didn't provide additional comments.