Dec 12, 2012
Chicago, IL – The Brady Center announced at a news conference today in Chicago that it has filed a lawsuit for wrongful death in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois against Armslist.com, an Internet gun web site, on behalf of the family of Jitka Vesel, who was murdered by a stalker. The complaint alleges that Jitka was killed with a gun sold illegally in an online sale facilitated by the web site. This is the first lawsuit against a gun website for causing a shooting.
“Responsible gun sellers and web site operators, like most Americans, recognize that guns should be sold with the greatest care, to prevent arming dangerous people with the means to kill,” said the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project Director, Jonathan Lowy, counsel for the family. “Gun sellers and web site operators who facilitate the arming of killers and criminals must be held accountable. We as a nation are better than an anonymous Internet gun market where killers and criminals can easily get guns.”
According to the complaint filed today, on April 13, 2011, Jitka Vesel, a 36-year-old immigrant from the Czech Republic was shot and killed by Demetry Smirnov, a Russian immigrant residing in Canada who had met Jitka online a few years earlier. Smirnov stalked her at night to a parking lot where he shot her 11-12 times with a .40-caliber handgun. The complaint alleges that he illegally purchased the gun from a private seller whom he located through armslist.com, an online gun auction site owned by defendant Armslist, LLC. The complaint alleges that the website's design encourages and enables users to evade laws that allow private sellers to sell firearms only to residents of their own state by enticing prospective buyers to search for and find gun sellers throughout all 50 states.
Sales conducted over the Internet frequently have been linked to illegal gun trafficking and sales to minors, and have been connected to the mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. According to media reports, Armslist.com also facilitated the sale of the gun used in a recent multiple shooting at a Wisconsin spa in October 2012. In 1999, due to the proliferation of illegal online gun sales, eBay announced it was prohibiting online gun sales. In or around 2007, Craigslist followed suit, banning firearm sales from its site. Other online websites that allow private parties to post goods for sale, including Amazon.com and Google AdWords, also prohibit the listing of firearms for sale because of the high likelihood that such gun sales will funnel guns to the criminal market.
A recent undercover investigation by the City of New York of online firearm sellers found that 62% of private gun sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said that he probably could not pass a background check. The City reported that in the undercover sting, more than half of the gun sellers contacted who were listed by Armslist agreed to sell a gun to someone who said he could not pass a background check, in violation of federal law.
Jitka was killed in the parking lot of the Chicago-area Czechoslovak Heritage Museum where she had been working as a volunteer to prepare for a celebration in honor of former Czech-American Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Ironically, Mayor Cermak was assassinated with a handgun in 1933 while shaking hands with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the intended target of the assassin. The shooting helped lead to the first major federal gun legislation.
Smirnov is currently serving a life sentence without parole. The gun seller pled guilty to the illegal transfer of a firearm to an out-of-state person, a felony, and was sentenced to one year and a day in prison. Jitka leaves behind her brother and life-long best-friend, plaintiff Alex Vesely, another brother, Pavel Vesely, and her father, Antonin Vesely
Jay Dobrutsky and Alex Marks of the Chicago law firm of Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C. are serving as co-counsel with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in the case.