News Column

Online Gun Marketplace Sued Over Shooting Death

Dec 13, 2012

Gun control advocates filed a groundbreaking lawsuit Wednesday in Chicago, seeking more accountability for companies that sell firearms over the Internet.

The lawsuit filed by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence specifically names Armslist.com, a 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.

"Gun sellers and website operators who knowingly funnel guns to killers and criminals must be held accountable," said Jonathan Lowy, the Brady Center's legal action project director and counsel for the family. "We as a nation are better than an anonymous Internet gun market where killers and criminals can easily get guns."

According to the complaint, Vesel, an immigrant from the Czech Republic, was shot and killed by Demetry Smirnov, a Russian immigrant residing in Canada who had met Vesel online three years earlier. He stalked her to the parking lot of the Czechoslovak Heritage Museum, where she worked as a volunteer, and shot her 11 to 12 times with a .40-caliber handgun.

Smirnov was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence in prison, Lowy said.

Lowry said that sales conducted over the Internet often have been linked to illegal gun trafficking and sales to minors, as well as mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.



Source: (c)2012 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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