This past Monday night over two hundred people packed into an auditorium in Niles for a meeting of the Niles Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals. The issue that brought out people from all over Chicagoland was the proposed opening of a new gun store and firing range at 6143 Howard Street. The location proposed for the store is next to multiple schools including New Hope Academy, a school for children with severe emotional needs, and Niles West High School.
JCUA, in partnership with the Illinois Coalition Against Handgun Violence and People for a Safer Society, attended the meeting on Monday night. Rabbi Ben Greenberg, Director of Programs, offered testimony to the commission opposing the gun store. Rabbi Greenberg stated what should be the obvious that “[it is] in the best interest of our children to not place gun stores and firing ranges especially ones that allow children to enter, near our schools.” A petition of more than 1000 signatures from people all over the Chicago area was presented to the commission. Nonetheless, the commission voted 5-2 to approve the special use permit and send it up to the Village Trustees for a vote.
There were several disturbing pieces of information that became clear during the commission meeting that must be publicized:
Connection to Shore Galleries
The recently hired manager for this new gun store and firing range was previously the manager at Shore Galleries in Lincolnwood. There are only four gun stores around the Chicago area that are responsible for more than 20% of all guns used in crimes and Shore Galleries is one of those four. Nearly 500 guns in a few year period were recovered from crime scenes that were initially purchased at Shore Galleries. The average rate for a store is less than 5. The businessman behind the new store, Myles Cunningham, touted his new manager repeatedly during the commission meeting as a person bringing years of experience in the industry to this new store. That is correct but the type of experience he is bringing is one that facilitates extremely high rates of guns falling into the wrong hands.
Police Department Conflict of Interest
The Niles Police Department offered an expert opinion to the commission that the store poses no dangers for the community nor does its location next to multiple schools present any challenges. The new store has already hired multiple active-duty full-time police officers from Niles and surrounding police departments to work part-time in the store as sales clerks and security personnel. Does this not present a significant conflict of interest? How can the police department be seen as an impartial expert on public safety when the business in question is hiring police officers?
Impact On Other Local Businesses
The owner of New Hope Academy, the school for children with severe emotional challenges and other special needs, that is closest to the location for the proposed gun store and firing range, testified during the meeting that her business will very likely be compromised by this store and she could face the prospect of closing. One of the criteria for a special use permit is whether the establishment will have a negative economic impact on neighboring businesses. The commission members paid little attention to her remarks, did not ask any follow-up questions and overall were dismissive of her economic reality. How impartial were the committee members in deciding the facts of this situation?
Lastly, the commission repeatedly throughout the evening refused to acknowledge any of the concerns voiced by the residents of Niles and nearby neighborhoods of the impact that having a gun range and gun store next to multiple schools would have from a public safety or psychological perspective. They insisted repeatedly that this was not a concern. How could this not be a concern? This past holiday weekend alone 82 people were shot all over Chicago. More than a 1000 people have been shot this year alone in Chicago. Children are gaining access to guns quickly and without much difficulty, whether through straw purchases or other means, and opening up another gun store in Chicagoland next to thousands of students is not concerning to this commission?
- Call the clerk’s office of the Village of Niles today and express your opposition to this planned gun business next to multiple schools. Tell them guns and kids do not mix: 847-588-8003.
- The agenda item will go back to the Village Board for a final vote on one of these dates: Tuesday, July 22 or August 26. We are not sure which date the item will be on the agenda, so for now reserve them both.