CROWN POINT | The Lake County Board of Commissioners refused Wednesday to surrender its gun shows despite the sheriff's complaint gun trading at the Lake County Fairgrounds isn't well regulated.
"We need to tighten up the control of these gun shows but not take away anyone's rights," Sheriff John Buncich told commissioners.
Commissioner Mike Repay, D-Hammond, shot back, "We are abiding by the law. If you have trouble with that, then the law should be changed. If we are not breaking the law, then we should continue to lease our facilities this way."
Commissioners took no action on the sheriff's plea to better regulate the vendors at the six gun shows scheduled at the Lake County Fairgrounds industrial building in Crown Point between March and December.
The fairgrounds shows, which have been taking place for more than two decades, were raised as a concern last week at a summit of federal, Illinois, Indiana and local law enforcement officers in Gary.
It was called by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who said 20 percent of weapons recovered by Chicago police from 2008 to 2012 were bought in Indiana, according to a study by the University of Chicago Crime Lab.
Repay said he doesn't dispute the study's statistics but does challenge the assumptions underlying it.
"It bugs me they are suggesting law-abiding Indiana citizens are selling guns to non-law-abiding Illinois residents. The mode of transportation is cloudy at best. A portion of these guns were likely stolen from law-abiding citizens through burglaries or other means," Repay said.
Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, said, "We are addressing the issue. We have security there. I have only heard of one or two complaints over the years. If we declared our contracts with the gun shows null and void now, then we could be sued. Next year we will change the contracts to make sure it's all done properly."
Buncich challenged the commissioners' statement that all is well in the gun shows.
"Tighten up the prerequisites so vendors comply with Federal Firearms License regulations. You are renting the building. You can always amend the contract." He added that there are reports of people in the parking lot outside the regulated show's boundaries, illegally selling guns without any documentation.
Repay replied that anyone could sell a gun in a supermarket parking lot, too, and there is nothing commissioners can do about it.
Buncich said, "I suggest you do more homework on gun regulations." Repay said, "I suggest you do some homework, too."
Lake County Attorney John Dull said the county would have to pass an ordinance to make any substantial changes to the fairgrounds shows are conducted. He said state law doesn't provide any support for Buncich's call for more gun control.