David Lewisbey was a star football player at Thornton High School in Harvey, Illinois, south of Chicago. His nickname was "Big Man." He was reportedly well liked and doing very well with his business in the community.
On May 14, 2014, Federal District Judge Ronald A. Guzman sentenced him to 16 years, eight months, in Federal prison for gunrunning. Lewisbey's lawyer urged a light sentence. He pointed to the record showing Lewisbey never shot anyone, never even committed a violent act. Judge Guzman was having none of it:
When you provide the tools, you are setting in motion a series of events, and you can’t just play ostrich and stick your head in the sand and say, "That’s not my doing.”Horace Boothroyd III's recent diary underscores years of instances where law enforcement officers solemnly concluded - and the press solemnly reported - that "the shooter acted alone."
Below the orange tangle, the story of David Lewisbey's career.
Over four years or so, David Lewisbey reportedly purchased hundreds of handguns and assault rifles at Indiana gun shows, weapons that he passed through a middleman-accomplice for sale to members of the Gangster Disciples street gang in Chicago and perhaps others. For a few of the guns - very few - there was a paper trail. The great bulk of them are in the wind.
Guns to Go. Sales at gun shows in Indiana require very little paperwork.
You flash an ID that says you're an Indiana resident. There may be an "instant background check." After that, you put your money on the table and buy hand guns, semi-automatic rifles, ammunition, whatever you need. No ban on assault weapons, no meaningful restrictions on ammunition that can be sold. Volume purchasers are welcome. If you're driving to or from a gun show, you can carry the weapons - unloaded, of course - without any kind of permit. (Indiana is a Must Issue state so a carry permit isn't much of a control.)
There's no registration of you or the guns you purchased, no waiting periods, none of those pesky forms and swearing-to in the Federal laws on buying from licensed dealers. Put the guns and ammo in your duffle, move on to the next seller's table or head for wherever.
Private sales are on a Don't Ask/Don't Tell Honor System, one gun owner to another, intended for transactions between family and friends. They can be accomplished with no paperwork at all unless the seller wants a receipt. (Which, in one of Lewisbey's purchases, he did!) And in at least one instance, Lewisbey apparently filled out an ATF form for a purchase.
The Guns of David Lewisbey. The Chicago Tribune covered Lewisbey's trial. It focused on 48 hours in April 2012, when Lewisbey delivered nearly four dozen guns to a middleman with ties to the Gangster Disciples street gang. For example:
- A Glock 23 was used in a double shooting weeks after Lewisbey purchased it in 2012. Neither victim chose to cooperate with the police. It appeared that Lewisbey reported the gun stolen a few hours after the shooting (it was one of those few reported transactions!), so helpful Indiana police returned the gun to him.
- The same weapon was recovered at a crime scene a year later. Outfitted with a laser sight, it was allegedly used by a gang member to take nine shots at rivals in a South Chicago neighborhood. The shooter was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and being a habitual armed criminal.
- Another of Lewisbey's guns turned up in a search of a reputed Gangster Disciple's home, a .40 caliber handgun being carried by a felon.
- The police found another, a .40 caliber Glock, during a pat-down of two suspected gang members loitering outside a South Side Chicago elementary school.
The prosecution argued,
During one of the deadliest years in Chicago's history, [Lewisbey] was pumping numerous unregistered and untraceable firearms in the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago ... on the side streets and in the back alleys.Indiana, whose official motto is "Crossroads of America," will be host to 55 gun shows during the rest of 2014.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has described the "rivers of guns" that flood Illinois from states with lax gun laws. A study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab concluded that nearly 20 percent of the guns confiscated by Chicago police from 2008 to 2012 were purchased in Indiana.
There is money in this business of gunrunning. In just one set of sales - to the undercover cop that cemented the prosecution in this case - David Lewisbey reportedly cleared $20,000.
It's Time to Close the "Gun Show Loophole". Virtually no paperwork is required to be kept or exchanged by sellers at gun shows. This gaping chasm in the law is not an accident. The NRA and its minions argue vociferously against registration of guns and owners. Against universal background checks. Against record-keeping that is ready accessible to law enforcement. Against studies that would disclose more precisely the extent of gun trafficking and smuggling. Against rules of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to prevent straw purchases - buying a gun for someone else - from Federal dealers (in Abramski v. US, now awaiting decision before the US Supreme Court).
Centralized record keeping of guns and owners would have disclosed David Lewisbey's mass purchasing of guns and ammunition ultimately used to commit crimes of violence. The main argument against registration is that it is a slippery slope to banning guns, to seizing them from law-abiding citizens whose uses of firearms are entirely benign - hunting, target practice, collections of hobbyist/aficionados. That concern is overblown hooey.
There is no sound public policy reason not to do everything we can to account for guns, for instrumentalities that are acknowledged to be dangerous when used as designed.
How long will legislators willfully withhold the tools law enforcement needs to protect the public?
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