(CROWN POINT, Ind.) Members of the Lake County Board of Commissioners and Sheriff John Buncich faced off Wednesday regarding the county's role in Illinois gun violence.
Commissioner Michael Repay, D-Hammond, said he did not take well to the idea of Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Tom Dart blaming legal gun shows at the Lake County Fairgrounds as the source of guns used in the killing of Chicago children. Dart made the comments at a bi-state summit on gun violence earlier this month.
"I think while the report accurately attributes weapons to the state of Indiana, the method of transport across the border is cloudy at best," Repay said.
Repay said further research needs to be done on how those weapons make their way across the border. Gun shows at the fairgrounds are handled in a lawful manner, he said, and if vendors are doing anything illegal, those laws needs to be enforced.
He said it is not the county's role to legislate gun sales. Changes in gun laws would have to come from the state and federal legislators, not county commissioners.
Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, said in the 16 years he has sat on the panel until this report was released he had heard only one or two complaints from the gun shows. The shows are staffed with security supplied by the Lake County Sheriff's Department and every precaution is taken to ensure they are successful.
Scheub said commissioners will look into its space rental policies but cannot make any changes to the shows that are already under contract for 2013. He said county officials have to walk a fine line regarding regulations to avoid lawsuits if promoters are operating in compliance with the law.
Any rental policy change would have to be driven by ordinance, which is a matter for the Lake County Council. Due to the existing contracts if an ordinance concerning the shows is enacted it would not take effect until 2014.
Buncich, in what became a heated discourse, said the comments made by Repay were not true and county control of the gun shows needs to be tightened. Buncich said he is disgusted with legislators, including U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, regarding gun control measures. He said county officials need to restrict the shows to licensed vendors only.
"There are individuals participating who are coming to Crown Point and are doing things that are not in accordance to the law," Buncich said.
While many vendors at gun shows are licensed, the shows are open to individuals who may have weapons to sell from their personal collections or perhaps an inheritance. Those vendors often do not follow the rules, he said.
Buncich said the county could do more and the commissioners should do more research on the federal and state firearms laws.
"I suggest you do the same," Repay said.
When asked outside the commissioners' chambers why, if illegal activity has been occurring at the gun shows, the issue just coming to light, Buncich said it is "because we are doing our homework now." As for stopping any illegal activity, "I intend to do everything I possibly can," he said.
Buncich said vendors are using loopholes in state and federal laws to circumvent the three-day waiting period and selling guns illegally outside of the buildings. In some cases buyers are also able to use false identification to make those purchases.
The sheriff said he supports Second Amendment rights to own guns and does not want to prevent people from legally buying weapons, but he decried loopholes that allow vendors and buyers to circumvent the intent of the law.
After the meeting Repay said he would be willing to do what he can to help at the county level but contends Chicago's crime problem is not Northwest Indiana's fault.
There is no shortage of Illinois residents who cross the border to conduct crimes in Indiana, including breaking into homes and stealing weapons, he said.
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