Chicago activists sue suburban villages over alleged lack of gun shop regulation

By Scott Holland | Jul 11, 2015

Fr. Michael Pfleger  

The Coalition for Safe Chicago Communities is pursuing legal action against three suburban villages, alleging a lax attitude toward gun shop regulations is, in part, responsible for crimes committed in Chicago.

Along with the Coalition, named plaintiffs include the Rev. Robin Hood, Fr. Michael Pfleger, Louvenia Hood, Annette Nance-Holt and Pamela Montgomery-Bosley. The suit names Riverdale, Lyons and Lincolnwood as defendants. The suit is filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

The plaintiffs are bringing action under the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, saying the villages allow gun shops to “sell guns in a manner that disproportionately jeopardizes the lives of African-Americans, causes mental anguish and distress and diminishes the value of their homes and other property.”

The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and a court order to compel the villages to use methods Chicago officials recommended in a May 2014 report on illegal guns in the city “and to engage in greater on-site monitoring of the sale of guns in the stores in their jurisdictions.”

According to the city report, which relied heavily on data from crime labs at the University of Chicago, many illegal guns recovered in Chicago city neighborhoods allegedly come from three Cook County gun stores: Chuck’s Gun Shop, in Riverdale; Midwest Guns, in Lyons; and Shore Galleries, in Lincolnwood. Those three stores, as well as Westforth Sports, of Gary, Ind., “provided nearly 20 percent of the guns recovered in Chicago crime scenes,” according to the complaint.

Report data included in the complaint shows Chuck’s Gun Shop is the leading supplier of such guns, with 1,516 weapons traced back to the Riverdale store from 2009 to 2013. The Lyons store was linked to 659 such weapons, with 515 from the Gary shop and 483 from the Lincolnwood retailer. The number of recovered Chicago crime scene guns from all other Illinois gun stores was three.

The report further states a large number of guns from the four stores were recorded within three years of their sale date, which on average is true in only 12 percent of recovered weapons. By contrast, the percentages were 19.3 from Shore, 34.9 from Chuck’s, 41.9 from Westforth and 50.6 from Midwest.

“Most of these guns… were diverted to illegal traffickers either through straw purchasers, theft or other secondary transfers,” the complaint states.

There are no state regulations for gun sellers in Illinois. The complaint states the villages in question do not, as the city report recommends, require gun shops to take several measures, including:

• Background checks on employees;

• Anti-theft measures such as adequate exterior lights, video surveillance or alarm systems;

• Training managers and employees to identify common signs of straw purchasers and to avoid selling to traffickers, minors and other illegal gun users;

• Maintaining a log of all sales of all guns later recovered from a crime;

• Quarterly or monthly inventory inspections; and

• Point-of-sale video recording.

The plaintiffs claim standing based on the way crimes linked to guns from the stores in these villages disproportionately affects their neighborhoods on Chicago’s south and west sides. The claim to the adverse affect on African-Americans underlies the ICRA charge.

The lawsuits asks the court to declare a violation of the state’s Civil Rights Act and require the villages to, by ordinance or regulation, install the kind of preventive measures the city report suggests, while also hiring one or more monitors to ensure those measures are implemented and pay the plaintiff’s legal fees.

Representing the plaintiffs are Thomas H. Geoghegan, Michael P. Persoon and Sean Morales-Doyle, of Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan, Chicago.

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