It’s not new for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to blame Chicago’s crime on “lax gun laws” in neighboring states like Indiana, but Lightfoot’s now taking her bluster to a whole new level; suing an Indiana gun store that she and other city officials say is fueling the violence in the Windy City. In the new lawsuit filed on Monday, the city alleges that Westforth Sports of Gary, Indiana is “knowingly” selling guns to straw buyers and firearms traffickers who are hauling the guns a few miles over the state line into Chicago.
The lawsuit was filed by Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, along with the city’s Law Department and law firm Mayer Brown LLP. The 42-page complaint alleges Earl Westforth “has been trained on his legal obligations on at least nine separate occasions” by ATF officials and that Westforth signed an affirmation each time acknowledging receipt.
“In addition to formal reviews of applicable law, ATF investigators have on several occasions provided additional guidance to Westforth concerning specific violations,” the suit alleges.
The suit also detailed examples of two straw buyers, one of whom is alleged to have purchased 19 handguns over a seven-month period in 2020 — including ten guns bought in multiple-state transactions and nine others bought at intervals designed to avoid federal reporting requirements. The other buyer the suit highlights allegedly bought six handguns from Westforth in the spring of 2020, including three identical Taurus handguns and a pair of identical Smith & Wesson handguns. The suit alleges that these duplicative multiple-sale transactions are “unmistakable warning signs of straw purchasing” that Westforth ignored.
Westforth told Block Club Chicago that he was unaware of the lawsuit, but that they “go above and beyond” what is required by federal law, and noted that all out-of-state handgun purchases are transferred to an FFL in the buyer’s home state, which in Illinois means the buyer must have a valid FOID card.
In other words, no one from Chicago is driving over the border to Gary and loading up a dump truck full of pistols that they legally bought. But with the city of Chicago and Everytown for Gun Safety launching a full-scale public relations assault in support of their legal attack on the Indiana gun shop, the anti-gun activists are hoping to replace fact with fiction and convince the court of public opinion (if not an actual jury) that the shop needs to be shut down.
As Block Club Chicago points out, this is a stale strategy on the part of city leaders and gun control groups.
This is not the first time Westforth Sports has been sued by the City. In 1998, Westforth was among the three dozen gun manufacturers, distributors and gun stores named in a $433 million lawsuit that was hailed as a cornerstone of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s attempt to crack down on gun violence in the city. That lawsuit was ultimately dismissed by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2004.
The difference in this case, according to Alla Lefkowitz, director of affirmative litigation for Everytown Law, is that “in this lawsuit we have alleged that Westforth Sports knowingly violated the law over and over again and that is something that the court said was missing from the previous lawsuit.”
Of course, if there were willful violations of the law one wonders why the ATF has never brought charges against the shop’s owner. We’ll have to see what the courts do with this litigation, but my hope is that it gets tossed quickly. In this David versus Goliath fight, the independent gun shop may not be able to survive a prolonged legal battle, even if it’s ultimately decided in their favor. Junk lawsuits like this are why the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act exists in the first place, and a sign of things to come if Democrats make good on their promise to repeal the PLCAA entirely.