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Gun-control group sues online gun advertiser in Oak Brook murder

Alex Vesely (left) brother  JitkVesel spoke his sister's murder as Jonathan E. Lowy Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence

Alex Vesely, (left) the brother of Jitka Vesel spoke of his sister's murder as Jonathan E. Lowy of the Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence listened. The Brady Center announced at a news conference that it has filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against Armslist.com, an Internet gun web site, on behalf of the family of Jitka Vesel, who was murdered by a stalker. They stood before a photo of Jitka's friend Theresa O’Rourke (left) and Jitka. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 14, 2013 7:10AM



A national gun-control group sued an Internet gun advertiser Wednesday on behalf of the family of a woman shot to death by a stalker.

The Brady Center filed the lawsuit against armslist.com in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming the website facilitates illegal gun sales to unlawful buyers with no background checks and no questions asked.

The website showcased the handgun used in the killing of Jitka Vesel last year in Oak Brook, officials say. Vesel’s former boyfriend, Dmitry Smirnov, is serving a life sentence for the murder.

“It makes me angry that some murderous guy could go buy a gun on the Internet,” said Vesel’s brother, Alex Vasely.

The lawsuit is a “first of its kind” against a gun website, according to Brady Center attorney Jonathan Lowy.

The site lets users search for sellers in all 50 states, allowing them to evade laws requiring private sellers to deal only with gun buyers from the same state, the lawsuit said.

The Brady Center provided examples of private sellers who placed ads on the website saying they would ship guns out of state.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for Vesel’s brother, who was named as a special administrator for his sister’s estate.

“To prevent a further tragedy like that, I will do whatever it takes,” he said.

In the Vesel case, Smirnov saw a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson advertised on armslist.com, officials said.

Smirnov — a resident of Vancouver, Canada — arranged with Benedict Ladera to buy the weapon outside a casino in Washington state.

During the private sale, Smirnov told Ladera he was from Canada and needed a gun because he was robbed. Ladera later pleaded guilty to the illegal transfer of a firearm to an out-of-state resident and was sentenced to a year in prison.

Smirnov had lived with Vesel briefly in 2008 after they met on the Internet. They broke up, and he moved back to his home in Vancouver. Three years later, he ambushed her in the parking lot of the Czechoslovak Heritage Museum where she was volunteering to prepare a celebration to honor the late Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak.

Smirnov later explained to a judge that he shot Vesel on April 13, 2011, because “you can’t just expect to just dump someone like that.”

Armslist.com was also in the news in a mass killing in Brookfield, Wis., in November.

The website advertised a .40-caliber handgun that a private seller sold to Radcliff Haughton. He used the gun to kill three women including his wife, and wounded four others, in a spa before turning the gun on himself, authorities said.

Afterward, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett sent a letter to armslist.com calling for greater self-regulation for online purchases of firearms.

Barrett noted that federally licensed gun dealers are required by federal law to conduct background checks, but private sellers aren’t.

EBay and Craigslist no longer advertise guns. But Armslist.com and other websites provide a market for private sellers and their customers, the mayor noted.

His letter pointed out that a 2011 investigation by New York City found that 62 percent of online sellers — including 54 percent of those on armslist.com — were willing to sell firearms to buyers who said they were unable to pass a background check.

Under federal law, private sellers must refuse potential buyers who they suspect are prohibited from purchasing a gun because of a felony conviction or a mental illness.

Although the lawsuit claims that armslist.com allows users to circumvent gun laws, the site does have a disclaimer that says: “Always comply with local, state, federal, and international law. ARMSLIST does not become involved in transactions between parties. Review our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE for more information. Report Illegal Firearms Activity to 1-800-ATF-GUNS.”

Some sellers using the site have posted similar warnings.

One of them, a private seller from Illinois, has an ad this week for an AR-15 assault rifle. He included this message with the ad: “If your local area does not allow the sale of assault rifles, I WILL NOT sell it to you. I don’t make the rules, if you have a problem with that I advise that you write mayor Rahm Emanuel and express your frustrations.”

Representatives of Armslist.com could not be reached for comment.



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