Chicago Sues Indiana Firearms Dealer for Allegedly Selling Guns to Criminals

Mayor Lori Lightfoot is joining with Everytown to go after a gun shop in Indiana. (Photo: Lori Lightfoot Facebook)

The City of Chicago announced this week that it is partnering with Everytown for Gun Safety to sue an Indiana gun shop for allegedly selling firearms to suspects who would later commit crimes in Chicago.

The suit accuses Westworth Sports, Inc., in Gary, Indiana, of ignoring clear signs of straw purchases and selling more than 850 firearms that ended up as crime guns in Chicago. The suit also claims that 44% of federally prosecuted illegal gun purchases in the North District of Indiana between 2014 and 2021 could be traced back to Westworth—a total of about 40 prosecutions.

Straw purchasing is illegal in every state, but Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot nonetheless blamed the rising crime rates in her city on surrounding states with less restrictive gun laws.

“We are surrounded by states and cities that have a much, have a much more lax gun control environment. You can go over the border to Indiana and get military grade weapons if you have the money,” Lightfoot said.

In the suit, Everytown lawyers claim to have seen documents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) outlining repeated instances of suspicious purchasing behavior by Westforth customers.

SEE ALSO: Illinois Gun Shop Moves to Indiana Before New Regs, Fees Kick In

In one seven-month stretch in 2020, a buyer is alleged to have purchased 19 handguns from Westforth: ten guns bought in multiple-sale transactions and nine others bought at intervals. Another individual purchased six handguns from the store in the spring of 2020, three of which were identical, and another person purchased five Glock handguns in a single purchase, two of which were duplicates.

The suit claims that this pattern of behavior should have alerted Westforth employees to suspicious activity.

All three individuals have been charged in connection with their purchases at the store.

Furthermore, the suit claims that the store should have known the damage it was causing to the City of Chicago.

“Westforth knows, or reasonably should know, that many of its gun trafficking customers are bringing Westforth’s firearms to Chicago given the widely available public reporting on Westforth being the highest out-of-state source for crime guns recovered in Chicago,” the suit claims.

SEE ALSO: New York Democrat Threatens Extinction of Local Gun Shops with New Bill

It’s unclear why the ATF hasn’t brought its own prosecution. The suit claims that over the past 10 years, the agency has cited Westforth 39 separate times for “many serious violations of federal law,” including for transferring firearms to straw purchasers after a failed background check, and failing to conduct a background check in the first place, among others.

The ATF allegedly considered revoking Westforth’s FFL twice but decided against it on both occasions.

In its prayer for relief, the City of Chicago asks that Westforth be required to submit to special oversight and training requirements and pay a “reasonable sum of money” that will allow the city to “abate the nuisance that Westforth has created” and compensate the city for the damages allegedly incurred.

Westforth did not immediately respond to a GunsAmerica request for comment, but the owner, Earl Westforth, told local media that he was surprised by the suit. He claims to turn away gun buyers every day and maintains that his business is in compliance.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over six years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Tyler. Got a hot tip? Send him an email at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Ken March 11, 2022, 12:06 pm

    As an attorney that has represented both defendants as well as informers in straw sales purchases along the US/Mexico border I predict that the law suit will go no where.

    As for the liability of gun dealers… regardless of the number of firearms sold to any particular client the FFL dealer has to be made overtly aware that the sale is a straw purchase in order for the government to convict.

    This is typically accomplished by the informant wearing a wire and engaging in a conversation with an FFL where the informant makes it clear that he is a straw purchaser and /or proposes to do something illegal with the firearm…. like take it to Mexico… which is illegal.

    Here, the taking of firearms to a neighboring state is not illegal! Even if the purchaser eventually sells them in the neighboring state… because transporting firearms across state lines is not illegal!

    However, those that purchase the firearms in greater numbers could be charged federally as being unlicensed fire arms dealers… if the government can prove that the firearms were purchased with the “specific intent” of reselling them…. I personally knew an FBI agent that was prosecuted and jailed for that due to the number of firearms he had sold… dozens… and one of them (a .50 cal) was recovered after a cartel vs. army gun fight in Mexico.

    So… all that a multiple purchaser has to do is exercise their fifth amendment right to remain silent when the feds come a’knocking.

    Remember… you can’t lie to a fed, that’s a crime… but you can refuse to speak to them (they always travel in pairs) without a lawyer present.

    I’d say that about 90% of the “straw purchaser” convictions I’ve seen came from self incriminating statements.

    We are all in love with the 2A… but knowing and exercising the 4A and the 5A are vitally important to maintaining the anti 2A forces at bay.

    So never consent to a search and never speak to LE without first consulting a lawyer.

  • Marvin Stuart Cohn July 9, 2021, 10:18 am

    In order to purchase a firearm from a FFL gun dealer anywhere in the U.S., you have to go through he same paperwork and background checks. What happens to the firearm after the legitimate sale is not the dealer’s responsibility just as it is not a car dealer’s responsibility of what one does with a car after it is sold. Chicago is still trying to blame the legal gun dealers and guns for the the violence instead of blaming themselves for their own failure of not being hard on crime.

  • DannyBoy May 1, 2021, 2:10 pm

    There is a problem here – 850 firearms that ended up as crime guns in Chicago resulting in 40 prosecutions. I see a delta of 810 prosecutions which means the city of Chicago failed to charge 810 people for a gun crime after they had been apprehended. So now we know who the real criminals are – the DA, his staff and the mayor.

  • paul April 30, 2021, 2:39 pm

    You know everything about all the guns, which should tell you who purchased them so here’s in idea: GO AFTER THE CRIMINAL WHO IS DOING IT….geeeze it’s not rocket science here just enforce the laws that are there!

  • JOHN T. FOX April 30, 2021, 2:12 pm

    HE SHOULD SUE CHICAGO FOR HARASSMENT! THE JUDGE SHOULD DISMISS THE CASE BECAUSE CHICAGO HAS NO STANDING! NO LAW CAN BE CONSTRUED TO IMPOSE A PENALTY ON A BUSINESS FOR THE LEGAL SALE OF GOODS AND SERVICES! THOSE CHECKS THAT SO CALLED FAILED, IF THEY DON’T HEAR BACK AFTER THREE BUSINESS DAYS THE SALE CAN PROCEED! CHICAGO IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS THE PROBLEM, AS WELL AS, THE KNOWN CONSEQUENCES OF USELESS GUN CONTROL!

  • Michael J April 30, 2021, 11:03 am

    Typical democrat logic, blaming others for their incompetence and their inability to maintain law and order. It would appear that no other cities have what Chicago is known for.

  • Singleshotcajun April 30, 2021, 10:01 am

    You know a Brown Bess or a MKI British Snider are ” Military “ grade. Hate vague terms that suit someone’s agenda.

  • Blue Dog (he/him) April 29, 2021, 1:12 pm

    FFL holders are the front line in combatting gun violence. The system, the way it works now, works best when FFL sellers exercise discretion in their gun sales. If the government is going to let sellers keep selling firearms, what responsibilities does the seller have, especially if he is proven to be a pipeline for guns used in crimes in another state? He says he does deny sales, daily even. I denied transactions often, usually for failing to meet ID requirements, but I did deny a handful of sales because the customers were acting suspiciously. Anything from being drunk to very loudly planning a retaliatory gang strike on his cell phone while I was running his 4473. Does the seller have some sort of interstate liability? Looks like he’ll get his day in court to determine that very fact. It sounds like there may be grounds to revoke his license, if not from the ATF then by the courts. This will be an interesting case to watch.

    • shrugger April 30, 2021, 6:39 am

      Sounds like there’s been cause to revoke their FFL for quite some time. Makes one wonder why exactly the feds allowed it to continue doesn’t it.

      • Chris April 30, 2021, 4:56 pm

        Watch the feds come back with an excuse like they were executing another operation like “Operation Fast and Furious” as to why they let sales continue, anything to make it look like they weren’t negligent in allowing firearm sales to continue despite individual people from out of state making highly questionable single day purchases of multiple firearms including duplicates of the same exact make and model of firearm in a single sale.

        This is why some states don’t allow out-of-state individuals to purchase firearms even if they have documentation to easily pass a background check. Some years back I was in Missouri at a gun store and found a pistol I had been interested in but had trouble finding. Despite having a military ID and a concealed carry permit from Iowa, at the time a “May Issue State”, that has reciprocity with Missouri because I did not reside in Missouri I was unable to purchase from that or any other store in the state.

    • JOHN T. FOX April 30, 2021, 2:16 pm

      SO WHY DIDN’T YOU REPORT TO THE POLICE THE RETALIATORY GANG STRIKE? YOU KNOW IF AFTER THREE DAYS YOU HAVEN’T HEARD FROM THE COPS THE SALE CAN PROCEED. NO GUN CONTROL LAW HAS EVER PREVENTED A SINGLE CRIME!

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