Online gun sellers are facing greater scrutiny after the second-deadliest shooting in U.S. history, spurring a nationwide debate and proposals to limit the availability of firearms.
Among them is Armslist LLC, an Oklahoma-based online gun marketplace, which is being sued for wrongful death by the family of Jitka Vesel, whose killer shot her as many as a dozen times with a weapon advertised on the site.
The lawsuit came two days before the Newtown, Conn., massacre that left 28 dead, including the gunman, his mother and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Under current law, theres a gaping Internet loophole which enables gun websites to facilitate illegal gun sales that result in gun crimes and gun deaths, said Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and a lawyer representing Vesels family. Felons, the dangerously mentally ill and domestic-violence abusers can buy guns no questions asked.
Representatives of the company didnt immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Armslist.com enables illegal interstate arms sales because it doesnt make buyers or sellers provide identification, according to the complaint filed in state court in Chicago by Alex Vesely, the victims brother. Theres no background check required for private gun sales in most states, Lowy said.
Television station KSL in Salt Lake City temporarily suspended firearms listings in its online classified ads after the Newtown shootings, according to a statement Dec. 18 on its website.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, commended the move last week, calling KSLs decision a critical step toward keeping illegal weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals.
Bloombergs office last year said an investigation into Internet gun sales found a vast and largely unregulated market for illegal weapons, with 62 percent of private sellers willing to provide firearms to people who werent likely to pass a background check, according to a December 2011 statement.
In the Armslist lawsuit, Vesely alleges his sisters killer, Demetry Smirnov, illegally bought a .40-caliber handgun from a private seller in Seattle he located through the website.
The seller, who was convicted for his role in Jitka Vesels death, admitted at his sentencing that Smirnov had paid him extra because he lived out of state, he couldnt buy it legally, and users of Armslist.com could easily evade gun laws, according to the lawsuit.
Armslist matches buyers and sellers solely based on Armslists mandatory drop-down menus that steer illegal buyers to illegal sellers, Vesely said.
Jitka Vesel, 36, was shot 11 to 12 times by Smirnov, a Canadian resident, who had stalked her after she rebuffed his romantic overtures, according to Vesely. Smirnov, now serving a life prison sentence without parole, paid an extra $200 for the gun that had been listed for $400 because he couldnt buy it legally, according to the complaint.
Armslist says on its website that it was created by gun owning and gun loving Americans because other Internet market places shun firearms. eBay, Craigslist, Amazon.com and Google prohibit listing guns for sale, according to Veselys complaint.