Indiana guns: Favorite of Chicago gangbangers

In six years, 3,824 guns taken off Chicago gang bangers that were used in crimes came from our next door neighbor: Indiana. It’s why WGN Investigates took undercover cameras over the border to see why.

Our producer and photographer walked in to an Indianapolis gun show one recent Saturday afternoon wearing undercover camera gear. They listened as one gun dealer showed them a semi-automatic with a 30 round magazine.

Asked why anyone would need that, the dealer said, “Everybody needs something.”

For a $5 dollar entry fee, you can buy all sorts of stuff at the gun show – bullets, handbags with hidden pockets, and of course, guns.  The law for buying a gun is different for those who live in Indiana than those who live in Illinois.

It’s so easy here, the dealers joked with our producer and photographer about it. One bragging, “We deal with Illinois residents all the time and we invite them to come to Indiana.”

Another dealer said, “As long as you’re an Indiana resident and you don’t have any trouble, I just write down your name and address so if they come knocking on my door, and say this gun was used in a robbery, well this is who I sold it to and then you got to explain what you did.”

But it’s easy to scam. Like one now infamous guy who simply used a fake Indiana drivers license. David “Big Man” Lewisbey filled a duffle bag with 9 millimeter and 40-caliber handguns. He bought them at various gun shows then sold them to gang bangers in Chicago for big bucks.

Tom Ahern, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says, not only it is easier to buy in Indiana than Illinois, it’s cheaper too. He says the combination has meant a steady flow of guns to Chicago that are involved in crime.

What Lewisbey didn’t know at the time was the feds were watching him. Said Ahern of the ATF, “There’s a large number of individuals at gun show that are selling their personal collections and they’re not holding the buyers to any kind of criminal background check or any paperwork of those transactions.”

That’s the missing link - as Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy put it, the gun show loophole. He says a big reason why more than 3,000 confiscated guns from crimes have come from Indiana. McCarthy says of the loophole, you have a federal firearms licensee, a dealer, who does a quick background check at one table. Right next to him at another table is a private collector who is not, by law, forced to check a buyer’s background.

That makes it awfully tough to trace when a gun is used in a crime. And that’s why this case against Lewisbey and his partners is so important.

Back in 2007, Lewisbey was a Thornton Township High School football lineman who made his way to college. Like many students, he kept a “to do” list that included, the first day of school.

But the rest of the list is like none other. Mid-way through on his things “to do” list is “Get guns back up.” Think about that for a moment – a college student who keeps a summer “to do” list that includes buying guns for gang bangers.

Ahern says it’s clear the word is on the street that if you want a gun, cash and carry, go to Indiana, bring it to Illinois and use it or sell it for a good profit.

In one 48 hour period, Lewisbey delivered 43 guns to a guy with ties to the Gangster Disciples - many purchased at gun shows.

WGN’s Mark Suppelsa asked the Indianapolis gun show owner if he ever sees a buyer fill up a duffle bag, even though it’s perfectly legal. The man said, most of the criminals know not to come to his gun show because he allows law enforcement to come inside for free to deter crime.

Whether this promoter is just naive or in denial, it is happening. Perhaps, he’s been more fortunate than most.

But that still doesn’t impress Chicago’s top cop. Since guns continue to flow across the border he’s had to switch tactics. He’s now working harder to partner with the feds to catch guns moving state to state. When we asked if it’s working, McCarthy said we’re up against it like a screen door on a submarine.

In May, Lewsiby was sentenced to 16 years and 6 months in prison for a gun running smuggling operation. His partner got nearly 11 ½ years.