GARY | The Lake County Fairgrounds gun shows are an example of a potential source of guns that fall into criminals' hands, Indiana and Illinois law enforcement officials said Thursday.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said gun shows in both states and so-called straw buyers — people with no criminal record who buy guns from legitimate sellers and then divert them to criminals —are among the many problems the two states will investigate in an intense effort to stop the flow of firearms in both directions across state lines.
Dart, U.S. Attorney David Capp, Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, Portage Police Chief Troy Williams and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson were among representatives from 20 federal, state and local government agencies meeting Thursday at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary to discuss illicit drug trafficking.
Buncich said the county fairgrounds in Crown Point "is one of the prime topics we talked about."
"We will be checking into the promoters," he said. "We are checking into other questions that arose about it."
Buncich said only the Lake County Board of Commissioners has the power to restrict or close the gun shows.
Six gun shows are scheduled in Crown Point between March and December, according to the Gun Show Trader website.
The fairgrounds shows, which have been taking place for more than two decades, often were the target of former Lake County Commissioner Rudy Clay.
Clay, the former Gary mayor, said the shows often were the scene of undocumented gun sales, which county government had no business assisting.
Commissioner Gerald Scheub, D-Crown Point, said Thursday the county already is contracted to host the 2013 gun shows.
"We are looking at revising requirements for shows next year," Scheub said.
Dart said Thursday's summit was prompted by new data that most weapons recovered by Chicago police from 2008 to 2012 were purchased elsewhere in Illinois and that Indiana, particularly Lake County, was the second-largest source, according to a study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab.
Buncich said Illinois guns and criminals were bleeding into Indiana as well.
Capp said his recent indictment of 43 members of the Latin Kings and Imperial Gangsters street gangs is a prime example of cross-border gun violence.
"We addressed 30 unsolved murders by being fully engaged with Chicago authorities," Capp said.
Dart said police aren't waiting for any new legislative restrictions on guns. They will immediately communicate better among themselves and meet again regularly to monitor the success of their new efforts.
Carter said, "I look forward to more collaborative work with them."
Former Detroit-area District Court Judge Greg Mathis, who has a nationally syndicated court reality show, "Judge Mathis," made a surprise appearance at the summit Thursday. He made a plea that law enforcement break the "code of silence" among crime victims and witnesses who refuse to talk to police out of fear of retaliation.