Suit against online gun marketplace dismissed by judge

Suit against online gun marketplace dismissed by judgeA company that provides an online marketplace for individuals to sell firearms providing they comply with state and federal laws is not liable for the death of a person from a criminal who purchased a gun illegally using the website a federal judge ruled this week.

The issue involves Armslist.com, which is a firearms site that is similar to Craig’s List where people can place ads for the sale of different types of items. With most websites including Craig’s List and the popular auction eBay prohibiting the sale of firearms or related items, the site enables a way for individuals wishing to sell firearms to post their listings for sale.

Those wishing to post on the site must click on a box saying they will abide by the terms and conditions of the website and agree to follow all state and federal laws when conducting a sale.

However, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, one of America’s top organizations for gun control brought a suit against the Armslist after Demtry Smirnov, who is a user on the site, used it to purchase a .40 caliber handgun in Seattle from a private seller who posted an ad for the weapon on the site. Smirnov paid an extra $200 since it was an illegal purchase.

The gun was subsequently used to kill Jitka Vesel, a 36 year old immigrant in 2011. The Brady Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of Vesel’s brother arguing that the Armslist is endangering public lives by its website design which “encouraged” people to buy illegal guns.

However, last week U.S. District Court Judge Charles Norgle dismissed the wrongful death claim calling the Brady Center’s claims “speculative” and that the company cannot be held liable for the criminal conduct of its users who violate the user agreement.

Norgle went on to say Armslist “has no involvement in the sales transaction of the products, including firearms, merely advertised on the website” and therefore since they had no part in the sale they cannot be held liable for actions resulting from that sale.

He also noted that people who visit the site must click through a terms of use disclaimer and also agree to comply with all state and federal gun laws for any transactions.

The Brady Center argued that expecting sellers and buyers to be responsible for their own actions if they chose to break the law was not enough and that the company’s policy was essentially worthless because they had no way ensure compliance with their terms and conditions.

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Drew is a regular contributor covering trending topics.