In Critical Win for Gun Industry Accountability, Indiana Gun Store Will Cease Operations Amidst Efforts by the City of Chicago, Everytown Law and Mayer Brown LLP to Hold the Store Accountable For Its Role In Facilitating Illegal Interstate Gun Trafficking
COOK COUNTY, Illinois – On Tuesday July 25, Indiana gun store Westforth Sports publicly announced that the store will be closing and liquidating its inventory. The announcement comes amidst an ongoing lawsuit brought on behalf of the City of Chicago by Everytown Law, the City of Chicago Department of Law, and the law firm Mayer Brown LLP. The lawsuit seeks to hold the store accountable for its role in facilitating illegal gun trafficking from Indiana into Illinois for decades. From 2009-2016, the last years for which data is available, Westforth Sports was the single largest out-of-state supplier of crime guns recovered by Chicago police.
Out of concern for the continuing public safety risk to the people of Chicago and in light of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to holding law-breaking gun dealers accountable, Everytown Law shared with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) the troubling evidence of additional misconduct uncovered during the litigation, and urged ATF to investigate and revoke Westforth’s license (the letters can be found here and here). Westforth’s closure comes amidst a dispute between the City and the store about whether the case would be litigated in Illinois or Indiana state court.
“The fact that Westforth Sports will shutter its doors is a testament to the importance of holding bad actors in the gun industry accountable,” said Alla Lefkowitz, Senior Director of Affirmative Litigation for Everytown Law. “As the City alleges in its lawsuit, Westforth Sports intentionally facilitated illegal gun trafficking, putting Chicago families in the line of fire. It’s not surprising that with the mounting evidence brought forward in our case and shared with ATF, Westforth’s leadership decided it could not continue a business responsible for selling so many crime guns recovered in Chicago. There is no question that Westforth’s decision to cease operations will make Chicagoans safer from the threat of gun violence.”
“For years, Westforth was the number one supplier of out-of-state crime guns recovered by Chicago police, fueling our city’s gun violence crisis,” said Mary B. Richardson-Lowry, Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago. “Their closing represents a significant victory for gun safety in our City.”
Filed in 2021, the suit alleges that Westforth Sports – located just 10 miles from the Illinois border – repeatedly broke federal gun laws and ignored clear signs of straw purchasing and gun trafficking, such as high volume, repetitive, and multiple-sale transactions involving duplicate or near-duplicate firearms. In the two years since the City’s lawsuit against Westforth was filed, the City was able to uncover further evidence that is now part of the public record showing:
- Over 300 guns have been straw purchased at Westforth from 2014–2021. In some cases, Westforth sold as many as 19 guns to one individual. Many of these guns have been used in serious crimes in Chicago, including homicides, non-fatal shootings, and assaults.
- For years, Westforth has sold assault weapons to residents of Chicago, despite the fact that it has long been illegal to possess such weapons in the city.
- Between 2010 and 2021, ATF inspected Westforth at least six times, with each inspection resulting in violations – many of which were repeats. During the 2021 inspection, Westforth was cited for nine categories of federal firearms regulations with eight of these categories being repeat violations.
- Among these violations were actions that may have frustrated efforts by law enforcement to identify individuals trafficking firearms into Chicago. These violations included:
- The practice of ripping up and discarding 4473 forms in which the transaction did not occur, despite a law requiring such forms to be maintained for five years;
- The repeated failure to timely report multiple handgun sales; and
- False information and misrepresentations that Westforth made to ATF in response to a request for information about a firearm that was found at a crime scene and traced back to the store.
- During the litigation, the long-time owner of Westforth testified that no amount of firearms purchased could ever be a warning sign of potential straw purchasing despite ATF’s repeated attempts to educate him and his employees about the importance of firearm laws. He also testified that it was not the store’s job to tell a potential straw purchaser no.
The Everytown Law team representing Chicago includes Alla Lefkowitz, Senior Director of Affirmative Litigation, James Miller, Senior Counsel, and Carly Lagrotteria, Counsel, and former counsel, Krystan Hitchcock.