Washington, D.C., April 19, 2018 – In a case filed by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin today unanimously held that Armslist.com, the largest online gun market, can be held liable for negligently facilitating illegal gun purchases through its website.
This is the first decision by a court holding that Armslist can be held liable. The case was brought on behalf of Yasmeen Daniel, whose mother was killed in a mass shooting in Brookfield, WI, using a gun bought through a listing on Armslist. The gun was purchased by a prohibited purchaser who was able to evade a background check because the sale occurred through a private seller.
Guns sold through Armslist have been tied to other previous crimes, including at least one other murder.
The Court reversed a decision by the trial court that the federal Communications Decency Act barred the case. The lawsuit was brought by the Brady Center, along with the law firm of Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips, LLP,; and the Wisconsin firm, Cannon and Dunphy.
Jonathan Lowy, co-counsel in the case and VP of Litigation at the Brady Center said, "The death of Zina Daniel is a tragedy that can and should have been avoided. The Court's decision is an important victory that will make people in Wisconsin and across the country more safe. Any business involved in guns should do what it reasonably can to keep guns out of the wrong hands, and should not put profits over the people.
"This decision will help encourage those in the gun business to do what they can to reduce America's unacceptable toll of gun violence."
"There are far too many bad actors out there, particularly unlicensed online gun sellers, who are putting profits ahead of safety. This court decision puts sites like Armslist on notice that they can and will be held accountable," said Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Center.
"This decision marks a major victory in efforts to keep guns out of dangerous hands. The days of gun sellers acting recklessly without consequences are over," added Brady co-president Avery Gardiner.
"People across the spectrum on gun issues should applaud this decision. It essentially reinforces existing law; that is, you cannot facilitate the purchase of guns by particularly dangerous people, like convicted felons, persons with domestic abuse restraining orders and those designated mentally ill," said Jacqueline Wolff, co-counsel for Plaintiff and a partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips in New York.
The complaint alleges that Armslist entered the online gun business after CraigsList, Amazon and other websites stopped allowing guns sales because of the danger that prohibited people would obtain them. Guns sold through Armslist have been tied to previous crimes, including the murder of Jitka Vesel in Chicago, which led to an unsuccessful suit against Armslist.
Counsel for Yasmeen Daniel are Jonathan Lowy of the Brady Center in Washington, D.C.; Jacqueline Wolff and Samantha Katze of Manatt in New York; and Patrick Dunphy and Brett Eckstein of Cannon and Dunphy in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is dedicated to reducing gun injuries and deaths in America by stemming all of the causes of gun violence. Through its Legal Action Project, the Brady Center works in the courts to reform dangerous and reckless gun industry practices that give criminals and dangerous individuals access to guns. The Legal Action Project has won rulings in courts across the country holding that gun companies can be held accountable for shootings that result from their negligence, including in the Supreme Courts of Kansas, Indiana, and Alaska, and lower courts in New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. For more information about the Brady Center and its Legal Action Project, currently celebrating its twenty-fifth year, click here.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.