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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Murder Victim’s Family Sues Gun Website

CHICAGO (CN) - An online gun dealer that "facilitates illegal gun sales to unlawful gun buyers with no background checks" sold the .40 caliber pistol a stalker used to murder a man's sister, the man claims in court.

Alex Vesely sued Armslist LLC, on behalf of his late sister, Jitka Vesel, in Cook County Court.

The Oklahoma-based Armslist.com sold the gun that a Russian immigrant to Canada used to kill his sister, who had rejected his advances, Vesely claims.

"On April 13, Jitka Vesel, a 36-year-old immigrant from the Czech Republic, was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Chicago-area Czechoslovak Heritage Museum where she had been volunteering to help prepare for a celebration in honor of former Czech-American Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Her killer, Demetry Smirnov, was a Russian immigrant residing in Canada who had met Jitka online a few years earlier," the complaint states.

"Jitka had sympathized with Smirnov as a fellow Eastern European immigrant trying to adjust to life in a new culture. However, when Jitka rebuffed Smirnov's romantic overtures, he began harassing her, ultimately stalking her to the museum parking lot where he shot her 11-12 times with a .40 caliber handgun. After shooting Jitka to death, Smirnov immediately turned himself in to police, pled guilty, and is currently serving a life sentence without parole."

Vesely says his sister, who was his best friend, is survived by him, another brother and their father.

"Smirnov illegally purchased the .40-caliber handgun he used to kill Jitka from a private seller whom he located through armslist.com, an online gun auction site owned by defendant Armslist, LLC," the complaint states. "The website's design facilitates illegal gun sales to unlawful gun buyers with no background checks and no questions asked. Armslist.com's design also encourages and enables users to evade laws that limit the sale of firearms by private gun owners to residents of their own state by enticing prospective buyers to search for and find gun sellers throughout all 50 states. Indeed, the private seller in this case, a resident of Seattle, Washington, noted at the sentencing hearing for his role in Jitka's death, that: (a) he had easily sold other firearms on armslist.com before selling the gun to Smirnov; (b) Smirnov paid him extra cash for the .40-caliber handgun because he lived out of state and therefore could not purchase the gun legally; and that (c) users of armslist.com could easily evade gun laws with a simple 'click of a mouse.' Armslist's conduct was a proximate cause of Jitka's death, and it, like Smirnov and the gun seller, must now be held accountable."

Vesely claims that "a recent undercover investigation by the City of New York of online firearm sellers found that 62 percent of private gun sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said that he probably could not pass a background check.

"In the undercover sting, more than half of Armslist's gun sellers agreed to sell a gun to someone who said he could not pass a background check, in violation of federal law."

Armslist calls its site a local classifieds list for guns, but "Armslist clearly intended the website primarily for illegal interstate gun sales," Vesely claims.

"Contrary to being designed for local interactions, Armslist requires users to advertise their firearms nationally, and steers buyers to view potential firearms from all 50 states, including the 49 states where every buyer could not legally purchase firearms directly from a private seller."

Vesely adds: "Armslist is not licensed as a federal firearms dealer," but "(f)ederal gun laws prevent any unlicensed dealer from selling a firearm to a person outside the state in which the seller resides."

He claims that Smirnov bought the murder weapon from a resident of Seattle, and traveled from Canada to pick up the gun in the United States.

"Smirnov's gun purchase occurred due to Armslist's prepared drop-down menus that directly facilitated Smirnov's illegal gun purchase, and Armslist's menus proximately caused such sale to occur," Vesely says.

"Armslist.com is a for-profit online gun website that facilitates private gun sales and makes money through paid advertisements on its webpage from companies such as Pottery Barn, State Farm, and Shutterfly," the complaint adds. "Recently, there were over 1,200 gun classifieds posted under Illinois on armslist.com, including over 200 semi-automatic rifles."

Vesely seeks damages for illegal gun sales, funeral expenses and loss of consortium.

He is represented by Jonathan Lowy with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington D.C. and Jay Dobrutsky with Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella in Chicago.

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