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Gun-Control Group Sues Web-Based Gun Sales Company



The complaint, which the Illinois State Rifle Association called a “harassment suit,” comes on the heels of a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday that handed gun rights advocates a major victory by striking down Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons.

Gun control advocates filed a groundbreaking lawsuit in Chicago Wednesday seeking to make companies that sell firearms over the Internet more accountable. Business Insider reports the lawsuit filed by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence specifically names Armslist.com, an Internet gun website that links gun sellers with potential buyers.

It was filed on behalf of the family of 36-year-old Jitka Vesel, a former Chicago elementary school teacher who was killed last year by a stalker. According to the complaint, the killer purchased the gun illegally in a sale facilitated by Armslist.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind against a gun website for causing a shooting, but attorneys said they hope the case will lead to stricter government controls for Internet gun sales that currently are largely unregulated.

The complaint, which the Illinois State Rifle Association called a “harassment suit,” comes on the heels of a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday that handed gun rights advocates a major victory by striking down Illinois’ ban on carrying concealed weapons. Illinois, the only state where it is illegal for individuals to carry concealed weapons for protection in public, must appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or put a new law in place within 180 days.

The Chicago Tribune reports Vesel’s murderer, Dmitry Smirnov, contacted a gun dealer in Seattle through Armslist.com. DuPage County prosecutors say he then drove from Surrey, British Columbia, to Seattle to purchase the handgun and ammunition and headed to Chicago. Before leaving Canada, prosecutors said, the 21-year-old unemployed computer technician made sure that Illinois had no death penalty.

Smirnov pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The Seattle man who provided the gun was sentenced to 14 months in prison for illegally selling a weapon to a non-U.S. citizen.

Under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, sales by a federally licensed dealer require that the purchaser have a Firearm Owner’s Identification card and complete a background check. But private sales — at gun shows and over the Internet — can be done within state boundaries without a background check.

A recent undercover investigation of online firearms dealers by the city of New York found that 62 percent of private gun sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said he probably could not pass a background check, according to Daniel Webster, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University. A similar sting operation in Chicago in the late 1990s found similar results, he said.

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