Sunday, October 29, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Suburban Sporting Goods in Melrose Park, which is among the top 10 dealers of “crime guns” in the Chicago area. | Google Earth
During last month’s Taste of Melrose Park, police in that village sold $10 raffle tickets for the chance to win a semiautomatic rifle alongside $3 artichoke casserole. The police, who also raffled off a handgun, said that the raffle was a fundraiser for their union, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report released at the time.
According to a flyer, winners were required “to have a valid Foid card” and were directed to fill out paperwork and pickup the weapon at Suburban Sporting Goods, 2306 W. North Ave. in Melrose Park, the Sun-Times reported.
Suburban Sporting Goods, it turns out, is among the top 10 source dealers of so-called “crime guns,” according to a report released publicly by the City of Chicago on Oct. 29.
“Since 2013, the Chicago Police Department has recovered nearly 7,000 ‘crime guns’ each year,” the report explains. “For the purposes of this report, a crime gun refers to a firearm recovered by CPD that was illegally possessed, used, or suspected to be used in furtherance of a crime.
A map showing the locations of the top 10 source dealers in the Chicago area. | City of Chicago
“The overwhelming majority of these firearms were originally purchased outside of the city limits and brought into Chicago. So far in 2017, CPD is already on pace to exceed last year’s gun recoveries. It is self-evident that the availability of illegally circulated firearms in Chicago is directly connected to its deadly street violence.”
Notably, Suburban Sporting Goods in Melrose Park was not in the top 10 source dealers four years ago. The store, though, has “continuously climbed each year to become the seventh largest source dealer of crime guns over the four-year period from 2013 to 2016.”
A chart tracking recovered firearms to their source, which are often stores outside of Chicago.| City of Chicago
The number of recovered firearms traced to Suburban Sporting Goods in Melrose Park has gone from fewer than 30 in 2013 to over 80 last year, an over 300 percent increase.
The report adds that Suburban Sporting Goods also “had the lowest average time to
crime of any top ten source dealer, suggesting that a portion of direct sales went to straw purchasers and firearm traffickers.”
According to the report, a firearm’s “time to crime” “refers to the amount of time that lapsed between the initial retail sale and the subsequent recovery of that firearm by law enforcement,” the report explains. “A shorter time to crime serves as an indicator than illegal trafficking or transfer activity took place before the firearm came into the hands of law enforcement.”
Suburban Sporting Goods, the report notes, “had both the highest three-year and one-year time to crime of any top ten [federally licensed firearms dealers], with almost half of its Chicago crime guns having been recovered within one year of initial sale.”
A chart showing traced firearms with the shortest “time to crime.” | City of Chicago
Last week, Chicago Tribune reporters interviewed the owners of Suburban Sporting Goods for an article published Oct. 27.
Owner Donald Beltrame and his son, Jim, told Tribune reporters that the reason why the store has skyrocketed as a source for “crime guns” is because business has been booming.
“With business increasing, you’re going to have an increase in everything, which is unfortunate,” Jim Beltrame told the Tribune. “We’ve probably had a 1,000 percent increase in sales, so (the 300 percent spike in crime guns found) is relatively low.”
But Tribune reporters found that the store has been in hot water for its gun sales before. Twenty years ago, Donald Beltrame “was one of five gun shop owners hit with rare federal criminal charges for allegedly selling to straw purchasers, but a jury acquitted him of all counts after a five-day trial.”
The Beltrames told the Tribune that all of the guns sold in their store are sold legally and that they’ve put in place mechanisms for detecting illegal purchasers.
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