CHICAGO – Summertime in Chicago, shootings ring out on the South and West sides as gang members execute drug-fueled vendettas. Bodies pile up, and innocent civilians are caught in the crossfire.
Still, nothing seems to stop the bullets flying from illegal weapons.
Father Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina on Chicago’s South Side, is trying something new; pressuring the municipalities where he says the illegal guns originate.
He and several co-plaintiffs are now suing the Villages of Riverdale, Lyons and Lincolnwood. Each town is home to a gun store that Pfleger claims is lax with oversight for gun purchases.
He wants the villages to crack down and prevent “straw purchasing” -- buying weapons in bulk, then selling them into the black market at a profit.
“We’re not asking anybody to take away guns from [legal] gun owners,” Pfleger said.
The lawsuit argues that a disproportionate number of crime guns originate from the targeted villages.
However, the heart of the issue is gang violence. And the ATF says gang guns don’t necessarily come from the gun shops in Riverdale, Lyons and Lincolnwood.
“The largest percentage of crime guns used by gang members are coming from Indiana,” Special Agent Thomas Ahern said.
The Village of Lyons – the only one of the municipalities that responded to a request from Fox News for comment – said in response to the suit that Chicago officials, with whom Pfleger works closely, are trying to pass the blame to outside communities for shortcomings dealing with crime.
The suit also makes a civil rights argument along racial lines.
It reads: “The victims of these crimes in which the guns from these stores are used are overwhelmingly African American.
“… The continued use of lax methods in licensing their dealers has a racially disparate and terrible effect on the communities in which plaintiffs and the members of the plaintiff organization live and has the effect of discriminating against plaintiffs because of race.”
But Burt Odelson, an attorney representing the Village of Lyons, said the suit has no merit.
“We don’t regulate gun shops based on race. We regulate gun shops based on state laws.”
Pfleger acknowledges that the problem is complex. Fractured families, as well as heroin and basic common sense, are components.
However, access to black market guns is also a component, and Pfleger believes the lawsuit is worth a try.
“I deal with the carnage. I deal with the caskets. I deal with grieving families. I’m dealing with the young people being shot and killed. So, I’m not just trying anything, I’ll try everything,” he said.