Westforth Sports, Inc. Was the Top Out-of-State Supplier of Chicago Crime Guns Between 2009 and 2016, and over 40 Federal Prosecutions for Illegal Gun Purchases in Recent Years in Northern Indiana Are Alleged to Involve Westforth Guns
Complaint: “These Eye-Popping Numbers are Not the Result of Bad Luck or Coincidence or Location. They Are the Natural and Predictable Outcome of a Business Model that Ignores the Federal Laws and Regulations that are Intended to Keep the Public Safe.”
CHICAGO — The city of Chicago has sued a Gary, Indiana gun store alleged to have sold hundreds of illegal guns trafficked into Chicago. Filed by Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, along with the City of Chicago Department of Law and the law firm Mayer Brown LLP, the lawsuit alleges that the store repeatedly broke federal gun laws and ignored clear signs of straw purchases and gun trafficking, contributing to a public nuisance in Chicago, including in connection with dozens of sales in 2020 and 2021 that resulted in federal criminal charges against the straw purchasers. The complaint cites years of previously-unseen audit reports by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, showing repeat violations, warnings, and two recommendations for revocation of Westforth Sports Inc.’s license to sell guns. It also points to court records showing that, between 2014 and 2021, over 40 federal criminal prosecutions for illegal gun purchases in the Northern District of Indiana, where Westforth is located, involved guns sold by Westforth.
The first civil lawsuit filed by Chicago against a major source of crime guns in more than two decades, the City is seeking a court order requiring Westforth Sports, Inc. to stop practices believed to be contributing to gun trafficking and gun violence in the City, as well as damages for the harm caused by Westforth’s actions.
“The City of Chicago is serious about reducing and eliminating violence of all kinds, which is why we’re fighting the tide of illegal guns flowing into our neighborhoods,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “As Mayor, I’ve worked tirelessly to reduce violence to keep our streets safe. Time and time again, however, 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. 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.”
“When this many crime guns are traced back to a single dealer, it raises serious questions about how that dealer does business, and in this case you don’t have to look far for the answer,” said Alla Lefkowitz, director of affirmative litigation for Everytown Law. “The ATF has cited Westforth over and over again for violating federal gun regulations, including for selling to straw purchasers. ATF inspectors twice recommended that Westforth’s gun dealer license be revoked. This lawsuit should be a wake-up call to ATF to take long-overdue action against Westforth to protect the public.”
The suit alleges that in the face of unmistakable indicators of illegal gun sales—including high volume, repetitive, and multiple-sale transactions involving duplicate or near-duplicate firearms—Westforth chose time and time again to look the other way and to falsify transaction forms, becoming a trusted source of firearms for traffickers and straw purchasers. For example, as detailed on pages 18-24 of the complaint:
- Over the course of seven months in 2020, one buyer is alleged to have purchased 19 handguns from Westforth, including ten guns bought in multiple-sale transactions, and nine others bought at intervals designed to avoid federal reporting requirements. With the exception of one gun that the buyer kept for himself, each of these guns were transferred to persons in Chicago. The buyer has since been charged criminally with making false statements in connection with his gun purchases at Westforth.
- Another buyer is alleged to have bought six handguns from Westforth in the spring of 2020, including three identical Taurus handguns and a pair of identical Smith & Wesson handguns. The complaint alleges that these duplicative multiple-sale transactions were unmistakable warning signs of straw purchasing, which Westforth ignored. One of the guns that Westforth sold to this buyer was recovered by the Chicago Police just over a month later, and the rest are believed to remain on the streets. In December 2020, this buyer pled guilty to a federal crime in connection with her purchases at Westforth.
- Another buyer visited Westforth in May 2018 and is alleged to have bought five Glock handguns—including two duplicate and near-duplicate pairs—in a single purchase. The complaint alleges that this suspicious bulk purchase of handguns was highly indicative of trafficking, and the buyer was indeed a trafficker. Just a day after Westforth sold these guns, two of them were recovered by law enforcement in Chicago during an altercation. One had been outfitted with a laser sight. This buyer has since been charged criminally with making false statements in connection with his gun purchases at Westforth.