A Berwyn resident hopes to open a gun shop in Oak Park, Wednesday Journal has learned, and it appears the village will soon give him the go-ahead.
Justin Delafuente, 27, applied for a license back in July for a business he plans to call Windy City Firearms, located at 6338 W. Roosevelt Road. In his original application, he was shooting for an Aug. 22 opening date but was still waiting for the village to issue a license as of last week.
The gun owner and lifelong National Rifle Association member said he doesn't believe the village is stonewalling his application.
"I think they're just trying to make sure it's done right," Delafuente said. "I don't think they're purposely dragging their feet. They just haven't dealt with this situation for a while."
Delafuente works for his stepfather's business, the 30-year-old Bull Sharpening, which is located next door to the proposed gun shop. The store would not have any inventory on site. Rather, customers would be able to purchase their firearms online, and then pick them up at the office on Roosevelt. Windy City Firearms would only deal in long guns, such as rifles and shotguns and not handguns or assault weapons (though Delafuente said he would be allowed to sell handguns to people working in law enforcement).
Larry D'Antonio, the Berwyn resident who owns both the building and Bull Sharpening, confirmed that he was talking to his stepson about leasing the 1,000-square-foot space. It was formerly used by a printer, and most recently as storage for his sharpening shop.
He believes there's a place in Oak Park for such a business, and isn't worried that it might arm crooks.
"Everybody always talks about, 'Oh, well the criminals are going to get guns,'" D'Antonio said. "Let's be honest here. Criminals do not walk into a gun store and buy guns. They go buy 'em in a back alley out of a trunk. At this point, all he's trying to do is help law-abiding citizens who want to go out and hunt and do whatever they want."
According to a letter that former Village Attorney Ray Heise wrote to Delafuente back in June, such an establishment is allowed within the village's borders.
"It is permissible to sell rifles and shotguns within the Village of Oak Park, but not handguns, assault weapons or assault ammunition feeding devices," he wrote.
Heise, who is now retired, could not be reached for comment at his Oak Park home on last week. Simone Boutet, the acting village attorney, said village staff discussed Delafuente's application about a month ago, and there seemed to be consensus to let it move forward. Boutet said there was previously a gun store on North Avenue in the village, but it closed in the 1990s.
That store, which also sold all manner of sporting goods, was Breit & Johnson and was located in the village for many years.
Reached Friday, Village Manager Tom Barwin said, pending a final inspection, Oak Park planned to issue the business license soon. In the past, he has advocated strongly to keep guns off Oak Park's streets, but he said Delafuente seems like a reputable businessman, and Barwin's personal feelings won't get in the way of the shop opening.
"The gentleman is following the laws, following the rules, and no matter what our personal feelings are, our responsibility is to apply the codes equally across the board," said Barwin, who is a former police officer. "As far as we can tell or see here, he's pursuing his legal options by the books."
Village President David Pope, like Barwin, has spoken out strongly in favor of gun control within the village, most recently with respect to Oak Park's longstanding handgun ban, which was overturned by the Supreme Court. But he agreed there's nothing for the village to do, since Delafuente is following the rules.
"At the end of the day, permissible uses that are not in violation of federal or state or local codes or regulations can't be prohibited," he said.
Delafuente said there would be a one-day waiting period for anyone to purchase a gun at Windy City, and he plans to do background checks and review each customer's Firearm Owner's Identification card before making a sale.
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