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Family sues website that allegedly sold Surrey killer a gun

Demetry Smirnov - File
Demetry Smirnov
— image credit: File

The family of a slain woman in the U.S. is suing the website that allegedly sold her Surrey killer the gun.

Demetry Smirnov moved to the Chicago area in 2008 after meeting Chicago's Jitka Vesel through an online dating service. Vesel eventually returned to a former boyfriend and Smirnov returned to Canada.

Surrey's Smirnov returned to Illinois, after allegedly buying a 40-caliber handgun at armlist.com and Smirnov approached her in a parking lot and started shooting and as he was reloading, she threw her coffee on him and fell to the ground. He continued firing, prosecutors say. She was found with numerous shots to the head and body.

He pleaded guilty to the murder, and has been sentenced to life in prison.

Now, Vesel's brother is suing the website where it's believed Smirnov bought the gun.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has launched the lawsuit on his behalf, and said it has filed an action against armslist.com for wrongful death.

It's the first lawsuit against a gun website for causing a shooting.

“Responsible gun sellers and web site operators, like most Americans, recognize that guns should be sold with the greatest care, to prevent arming dangerous people with the means to kill,” said the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project Director, Jonathan Lowy, counsel for the family.  “Gun sellers and web site operators who facilitate the arming of killers and criminals must be held accountable.  We as a nation are better than an anonymous Internet gun market where killers and criminals can easily get guns.”

The complaint alleges that the website's design encourages and enables users to evade laws that allow private sellers to sell firearms only to residents of their own state by enticing prospective buyers to search for and find gun sellers throughout all 50 states.

Sales conducted over the Internet frequently have been linked to illegal gun trafficking and sales to minors, and have been connected to the mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.  A recent undercover investigation by the City of New York of online firearm sellers found that 62 per cent of private gun sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said that he probably could not pass a background check.  The City reported that in the undercover sting, more than half of the gun sellers contacted who were listed by Armslist agreed to sell a gun to someone who said he could not pass a background check, in violation of federal law.

Jitka was killed in the parking lot of the Chicago-area Czechoslovak Heritage Museum where she had been working as a volunteer to prepare for a celebration in honor of former Czech-American Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak.  Ironically, Mayor Cermak was assassinated with a handgun in 1933 while shaking hands with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the intended target of the assassin.

Brady alleges the gun seller pleaded guilty to the illegal transfer of a firearm to an out-of-state person, a felony, and was sentenced to one year and a day in prison.

@diakiw

 

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