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Murdered Woman’s Family Sues For Greater Online Gun Control

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"Murdered Woman’s Family Sues For Greater Online Gun Control"

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Jitka Vesel

On December 12, 2012, the family of shooting victim Jitka Vesel sued the online gun market Armslist.com for the wrongful death of their loved one, who had been shot about 12 times in a parking lot in Illinois, by a gunman who had illegally obtained his weapon on the website.

Vesel’s brother hopes that lawmakers — like those named to the President’s gun violence prevention task force, created in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary — will address illegal online gun sales as they talk about measures to curb gun killings. Armslist does not require its buyers or sellers to give identification, and is not legally required to administer background checks:

“Armslist matches buyers and sellers solely based on Armslist’s mandatory drop-down menus that steer illegal buyers to illegal sellers,” Vesely said. “Armslist’s development of content thus materially contributes to the illegality of the gun sales it promotes.”

Jitka Vesel, 36, was shot 11 to 12 times by Smirnov in the parking lot of the Czechoslovak Heritage Museum in Oak Brook, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. Smirnov, a Canadian resident, 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 couldn’t buy it legally, according to the complaint.

Background checks have indeed been part of the post-Newtown conversation about needed gun control measures; the President’s spokesperson floated the idea of closing the so-called ‘gun show loophole,’ which allows private sellers to distribute firearms without any checks on the purchaser. The Brady Campaign has found that, in some studies, “63 percent of private sellers sold guns to purchasers who stated they probably could not pass a background check.” Few lawmakers have addressed the idea of online black markets for gun sales, or websites like Armslist.com that do not have proper protections to ensure guns are not being sold to criminals.

Flawed federal laws also limit the ability of Vesel’s relatives to acquire evidence against Armslist in their civil suit. Several federal laws, known collectively as the Tiahrt Amendments, prevent trace data linking guns used in crime to previous owners and sellers from being used in civil proceedings.

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